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Sparky
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1452 Items
Last Updated:
Jul 17, 2009
Chronos [HD DVD]
Taking the familiar conventions of time-lapse cinematography to a transcendent level of artistic achievement, filmmaker Ron Fricke circled the globe to make Chronos, a stunning 70-millimeter time-lapse tour of natural and man-made wonders. The entire film has the enhanced, hyper-realistic quality of a laser-etched photograph, and by using special cameras and motion-control photographic techniques, Fricke and his technically expert crew were able to create mesmerizing images guaranteed to spark any viewer's sense of awe and wonder. Accompanied by the hypnotic music of Michael Stearns, this visual journey takes the viewer on a tour of over 50 locations on nearly every continent of the world, including explorations of Paris, the Vatican, the Egyptian pyramids, the African veldt, and many more stunning vistas. The cumulative effect is the feeling that the world—from the busiest metropolis to the most serenely remote wilderness landscape—is dictated by "chronos," the rhythm of time to which all living things must submit. Like Koyaanisquatsi and Baraka, this is one of those eye-candy films that was conceived according to its specific theme, so it's not only a soothing visual experience but a thought-provoking study of our fascinating planet. —Jeff Shannon
The Jackal - Collector's Edition
The best way to enjoy this 1997 thriller is to forget the much better film that inspired it (1973's The Day of the Jackal) and get whatever kicks you can from this heavy-metal remake. It's not bad as hokey thrillers go, but all of the original film's suspenseful finesse has been traded in (not traded up) for bigger, bolder action and nonsensical plotting. It's as if Hollywood had forgotten to create excitement without resorting to overblown action and heavy hardware, but there's ample compensation in the casting of Bruce Willis and Richard Gere. Willis is the elusive assassin known only as the Jackal, whose latest target (he uses a cannon-sized gun that's anything but inconspicuous) may be the first lady of the United States. Gere plays a former IRA terrorist who is recruited by the deputy head of the FBI (Sidney Poitier) to trace the Jackal's maneuvers, and Diane Venora offers some gutsy support as a Russian-born agent who assists Gere on his mission. The movie has fun turning Willis into a master of disguise, and Gere adds much-needed gravity to counter the plot's escalating absurdity, but this is the kind of film that falls apart if you think about it too much. Still, that doesn't stop the Collector's Edition DVD from offering an impressive array of bonus features, including a director's commentary, a "making of The Jackal" documentary, deleted scenes, an alternative ending, cast interviews, and more. —Jeff Shannon
The Frighteners
One movie lover's nightmare is another's raucous joyride, and this special effects-laden horror comedy is bound to split both camps right down the middle. (Or, as Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide puts it, "definitely not for all tastes but a wild time for those who get into it.") Michael J. Fox plays a psychic investigator who can actually see ghosts, and lives with a trio of undead spirits who scare people to promote Fox's ghost-busting business. In a town infamous for serial killings, a new series of deaths prompts Fox to induce his own out-of-body experience so he can battle death in a spirit-plagued netherworld where evil reigns supreme—or something like that. So much happens in this chaotic film that you might feel like you're watching several movies at once—a slasher pic, a supernatural thriller, and a black comedy all rolled into a nonstop showcase for grisly makeup and a dozen varieties of special effects. It's an odd but wildly inventive film from New Zealand director Peter Jackson, who earned critical acclaim for his previous film Heavenly Creatures and would later create the ingenious pseudo-documentary Forgotten Silver. —Jeff Shannon
Star Trek - First Contact
Even-numbered Star Trek movies tend to be better, and First Contact (#8 in the popular movie series) is no exception—an intelligently handled plot involving the galaxy-conquering Borg and their attempt to invade Earth's past, alter history, and "assimilate" the entire human race. Time travel, a dazzling new Enterprise, and capable direction by Next Generation alumnus Jonathan Frakes makes this one rank with the best of the bunch. Capt. Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his able crew travel back in time to Earth in the year 2063, where they hope to ensure that the inventor of warp drive (played by James Cromwell) will successfully carry out his pioneering warp-drive flight and precipitate Earth's "first contact" with an alien race. A seductive Borg queen (Alice Krige) holds Lt. Data (Brent Spiner) hostage in an effort to sabotage the Federation's preservation of history, and the captive android finds himself tempted by the queen's tantalizing sins of the flesh! Sharply conceived to fit snugly into the burgeoning Star Trek chronology, First Contact leads to a surprise revelation that marks an important historical chapter in the ongoing mission "to boldly go where no one has gone before."—Jeff Shannon
Blade (New Line Platinum Series)
The recipe for Blade is quite simple; you take one part Batman, one part horror flick, and two parts kung fu and frost it all over with some truly campy acting. What do you get? An action flick that will reaffirm your belief that the superhero action genre did not die in the fluorescent hands of Joel Schumacher. Blade is the story of a ruthless and supreme vampire slayer (Wesley Snipes) who makes other contemporary slayers (Buffy et al.) look like amateurs. Armed with a samurai sword made of silver and guns that shoot silver bullets, he lives to hunt and kill "Sucker Heads." Pitted against our hero is a cast of villains led by Deacon Frost (Stephen Dorff), a crafty and charismatic vampire who believes that his people should be ruling the world, and that the human race is merely the food source they prey on. Born half-human and half-vampire after his mother had been attacked by a blood-sucker, Blade is brought to life by a very buff-looking Snipes in his best action performance to date. Apparent throughout the film is the fluid grace and admirable skill that Snipes brings to the many breathtaking action sequences that lift this movie into a league of its own. The influence of Hong Kong action cinema is clear, and you may even notice vague impressions of Japanese anime sprinkled innovatively throughout. Dorff holds his own against Snipes as the menacing nemesis Frost, and the grizzly Kris Kristofferson brings a tough, cynical edge to his role as Whistler, Blade's mentor and friend. Ample credit should also go to director Stephen Norrington and screenwriter David S. Goyer, who prove it is possible to adapt comic book characters to the big screen without making them look absurd. Indeed, quite the reverse happens here: Blade comes vividly to life from the moment you first see him, in an outstanding opening sequence that sets the tone for the action-packed film that follows. From that moment onward you are pulled into the world of Blade and his perpetual battle against the vampire race. —Jeremy Storey
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Monty Python's Terry Gilliam (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) directs this wild, wild version of the stories of Baron Munchausen, pushing the limits of 1989 special effects technology to bring us such sights as a horse divided in half and running around in two parts, and a giant Robin Williams with his head flying off his shoulders. Basically, this is a treat for Gilliam fans, as the sustaining idea of the film runs out of steam, and manic energy alone keeps the momentum going. Casual viewers might find it tedious after awhile. There are nice parts for fellow Python Eric Idle, as well as Sting, Alison Steadman, and Uma Thurman as a dazzlingly beautiful Venus on a half-shell. Gilliam had greater artistic and commercial success with Brazil, The Fisher King, and 12 Monkeys. —Tom Keogh
Star Trek - Insurrection
Star Trek fans were decidedly mixed in their reactions to this, the ninth big-screen feature in Paramount's lucrative Trek franchise, but die-hard loyalists will appreciate the way this Next Generation adventure rekindles the spirit of the original Trek TV series while combining a tolerable dose of New-Agey philosophy with a lighthearted plot for the TNG cast. This time out, Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his executive crew must transport to a Shangri-la-like planet to see why their android crewmate Data (Brent Spiner) has run amuck in a village full of peaceful Ba'ku artisans who—thanks to their planet's "metaphasic radiation"—haven—haven't aged in 309 years.

It turns out there's a conspiracy afoot, masterminded by the devious, gruesomely aged Ru'afo (F. Murray Abraham, hamming it up under makeup resembling a cosmetic surgeon's worst nightmare), who's in cahoots with a renegade Starfleet admiral (Anthony Zerbe, in one of his final screen roles). They covet the fountain-of-youth power of the Ba'ku planet, but because their takeover plan violates Starfleet's Prime Directive of noninterference, it's up to Picard and crew to stop the scheme. Along the way, they all benefit from the metaphasic effect, which manifests itself as Worf's puberty (visible as a conspicuous case of Klingon acne), Picard's youthful romance with a Ba'ku woman (the lovely Donna Murphy), the touching though temporary return of Geordi's natural eyesight, and a moment when Troi asks Dr. Crusher if she's noticed that her "boobs are firming up."

Some fans scoffed at these humorous asides, but they're what make this Trek film as entertaining as it is slightly disappointing. Without the laughs (including Data's rousing excerpt from Gilbert & Sullivan's HMS Pinafore), this is a pretty routine entry in the franchise, with no real surprises, a number of plot holes, and the overall appearance of a big-budget TV episode. As costar and director, Jonathan Frakes proves a capable carrier of the Star Trek flame—and it's nice to see women in their 40s portrayed as smart and sexy—but while this is surely an adequate Trek adventure, it doesn't quite rank with the best in the series. —Jeff Shannon
Wing Commander
Video games are interesting because they're interactive, and movies because they aren't. In a video game, you're the actor; moviegoing depends on your connecting with those people up on the screen;. There's really no easy crossover.

That's the problem with Wing Commander, based on the bestselling computer game series created by Chris Roberts. Roberts helms the film, too, having previously directed "cinematic" sequences for the game, starring Mark Hamill from Star Wars, no less. But a feature-length story is something else again. Maybe gamers will find something to enjoy here, but that sets the rest of us adrift.

There's war between the Terran Confederation and the evil Kilrathi, who are so evil they want to destroy the whole universe. (They probably aren't thinking that through very clearly. But then they're evil.) They've stolen the Pegasus Navicom A.I. device that enables them to "jump" behind enemy lines and destroy the Earth part of the universe. Freddie Prinze Jr. stars as Blair, a Pilgrim, which means he's hated by everybody for having this film's answer to the Force. His pal Matthew Lillard plays Maniac (his usual role). So you've got two guys with a Top Gun complex, bent on preventing the Kilrathi from destroying Earth. You'd expect lots of action from these combat-ready flyboys. But there's scant little of that, and lots of static dialogue scenes, including one cinematic quote of Howard Hawks's classic Only Angels Have Wings to explain how pilots handle the death of one of their own. Presumptuous. All it would have taken to make this film a success is a series of action set pieces and a thin plot to hang them from. What director Roberts needed was a Navicom device to help him "jump" behind Hollywood lines. That and a decent script. —Jim Gay
History of the World — Part I
Mel Brooks's 1981, three-part comedy—set in the Stone Age, the Roman Empire, and the French Revolution—is pure guilty pleasure. Narrated by Orson Welles and featuring a lot of famous faces in guest appearances (beyond the official cast), the film opens well with Sid Caesar playing a caveman, then moves along to the unlikely but somehow hilarious juxtaposition of Caesar's soldiers (the other Caesar, not Sid) with pot humor, and ends on a dumb-funny note in the French bloodbath. This is a take-it-or-leave-it movie, and it works best if you're in a take-it-or-leave-it mood. —Tom Keogh
Mystery Men
Ever wonder if there was a class system in the world of superheroes? After all the big names like Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, etc., who were the supporting players? The folks assigned to the less-than-stellar gigs of saving only a small part of the world? According to this intermittently successful send-up of comic book heroism, there are indeed masked heroes who struggle and toil for their moment in the super sun. Based on the Dark Horse comic book series, Mystery Men follows the travails of three B-list avengers—Mr. Furious (Ben Stiller), the Shoveler (William H. Macy), and the Blue Raja (Hank Azaria)—as they fight to make themselves known to the citizens of Champion City, quite difficult to do when the flashy Captain Amazing (Greg Kinnear, never better) takes all the cool gigs and has product endorsements up the ying-yang. According to them, it's all a matter of timing—never mind that Mr. Furious never rises above a snit, or that the Blue Raja wears green. Their big break comes when Captain Amazing is abducted by the evil Casanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush), and it's up to this motley crew to save Champion City.

Blessed with a wondrously gifted comic cast and full of droll details, Mystery Men struggles in fits and spurts towards its climax. Transcendently witty in parts, it's also woefully sophomoric in others. Literally, this is the kind of movie in which someone gets off a brilliant line and then sits on a fork. Still, when this movie is rolling, it's gleefully on target, thanks primarily to the mordantly cocky Stiller and Janeane Garofalo as a latecomer to the superhero gang; her secret weapon is a bowling ball in which her dead father's head is encased. The comic chemistry between these two is fierce, and when you add the dryly funny Macy and the endearing Azaria (who finally gets a chance to let loose with his comic gifts), it's a hilarious joyride. Too bad that the gas tank is only half-full; this stunning cast deserves a first-rate vehicle. With Tom Waits as a weapons expert, Claire Forlani as the requisite babe, and Paul Reubens as the Spleen, the world's most flatulent superhero. —Mark Englehart
The Addams Family
Excellent condition, includes the original DVD, case, and paperwork, fast shipped, maybe one or two very light minor scratches only, ask me for my DVD List! :)
Spaceballs
Mel Brooks's 1987 parody of the Star Wars trilogy is a jumble of jokes rather than a comic feature, and, predictably, some of those jokes work better than others. The cast, including Brooks in two roles, more or less mimics the principal characters from George Lucas's famous story line, and the director certainly gets a boost from new allies (SCTV graduates Rick Moranis and John Candy) as well as old ones (Dick Van Patten, Dom DeLuise). Watch this and wait for the sporadic inspiration—but don't be surprised if you find yourself yearning for those years when Brooks was a more complete filmmaker (Young Frankenstein). —Tom Keogh
Galaxy Quest
You don't have to be a Star Trek fan to enjoy Galaxy Quest, but it certainly helps. A knowingly affectionate tribute to Trek and any other science fiction TV series of the 1960s and beyond, this crowd-pleasing comedy offers in-jokes at warp speed, hitting the bull's-eye for anyone who knows that (1) the starship captain always removes his shirt to display his manly physique; (2) any crew member not in the regular cast is dead meat; and (3) the heroes always stop the doomsday clock with one second to spare. So it is with Commander Taggart (Tim Allen) and the stalwart crew of the NSEA Protector, whose intergalactic exploits on TV have now been reduced to a dreary cycle of fan conventions and promotional appearances. That's when the Thermians arrive, begging to be saved from Sarris, the reptilian villain who threatens to destroy their home planet.

Can actors rise to the challenge and play their roles for real? The Thermians are counting on it, having studied the "historical documents" of the Galaxy Quest TV show, and their hero worship (not to mention their taste for Monte Cristo sandwiches) is ultimately proven worthy, with the help of some Galaxy geeks on planet Earth. And while Galaxy Quest serves up great special effects and impressive Stan Winston creatures, director Dean Parisot (Home Fries) is never condescending, lending warm acceptance to this gentle send-up of sci-fi TV and the phenomenon of fandom. Best of all is the splendid cast, including Sigourney Weaver as buxom blonde Gwen DeMarco; Alan Rickman as frustrated thespian Alexander Dane; Tony Shalhoub as dimwit Fred Kwan; Daryl Mitchell as former child-star Tommy Webber; and Enrico Colantoni as Thermian leader Mathesar, whose sing-song voice is a comedic coup de grâce. —Jeff Shannon
The Naked Gun 2 1/2 - The Smell of Fear
It's more of Leslie Nielsen's Lt. Frank Drebin, the bumbling cop from the old Police Squad! television series. This time, Drebin uncovers a plot—led by supervillain Robert Goulet!—to sabotage America's energy policy. The jokes don't stick as well as those of the first film (Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!), but there are some very funny slapstick moments, including several involving former First Lady Barbara Bush (played by an actress, of course). —Tom Keogh
The Naked Gun 33 1/3 - The Final Insult
The usual way of the world is that sequels amount to thinner and thinner carbon copies of the original. But not in the case of Naked Gun movies, which only seemed to get funnier with each new entry. This third episode in the series finds Lieutenant Frank Drebin (Leslie Nielsen) retired from his police squad and married to the woman of his dreams (Priscilla Presley). But he is pressed back into action to infiltrate a group of terrorists who plan to blow up the Oscars. The filmmakers make hay with spoofs of prison films and, particularly, of the Oscars themselves, in an award-show send-up that includes such real-life stars as Raquel Welch and Pia Zadora—and Drebin being mistaken for Phil Donahue. The takeoff on the dreadful production numbers that always drag out the Academy Awards will have you howling. —Marshall Fine
Magnolia (New Line Platinum Series)
A handful of people in the San Fernando Valley are having one hell of a day. TV mogul Earl Partridge (Jason Robards) is on his deathbed; his trophy wife (Julianne Moore) is popping pills with alarming frequency. Earl's nurse (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is trying desperately to get in touch with Earl's only son, sex guru Frank T.J. Mackey (Tom Cruise), who's about to have his carefully constructed past blown by a TV reporter (April Grace). Whiz kid Stanley (Jeremy Blackman) is being goaded by his selfish dad into breaking the record for the game show What Do Kids Know? Meanwhile, Stanley's predecessor, the grown-up quiz kid Donnie Smith (William H. Macy) has lost his job and is nursing a severe case of unrequited love. And the host of What Do Kids Know?, the affable Jimmy Gator (Philip Baker Hall), like Earl, is dying of cancer, and his attempt to reconcile with his cokehead daughter (Melora Walters) fails miserably. She, meanwhile, is running hot and cold with a cop (John C. Reilly) who would love to date her, if she can sit still for long enough. And over it all, a foreboding sky threatens to pour something more than just rain.

This third feature from Paul Thomas Anderson (Boogie Nights) is a maddening, magnificent piece of filmmaking, and it's an ensemble film to rank with the best of Robert Altman—every little piece of the film means something, and it's solidly there for a reason. Deftly juggling a breathtaking ensemble of actors, Anderson crafts a tale of neglectful parents, resentful children, and love-starved souls that's amazing in scope, both thematically and emotionally. Part of the charge of Magnolia is seeing exactly how may characters Anderson can juggle, and can he keep all those balls in air (indeed he can, even if it means throwing frogs into the mix). And it's been far too long since we've seen a filmmaker whose love of making movies is so purely joyful, and this electric energy is reflected in the actors, from Cruise's revelatory performance to Reilly's quietly powerful turn as the moral center of the story. While at three hours it's definitely not suited to everyone's taste, Magnolia is a compelling, heartbreaking, ultimately hopeful mediation on the accidents of chance that make up our lives. Featuring eight wonderful songs by Aimee Mann, including "Save Me."—Mark Englehart
Toy Story & Toy Story 2 (2 Pack)
Toy Story

There is greatness in film that can be discussed, dissected, and talked about late into the night. Then there is genius that is right in front of our faces—we smile at the spell it puts us into and are refreshed, and nary a word needs to be spoken. This kind of entertainment is what they used to call "movie magic," and there is loads of it in this irresistible computer animation feature. Just a picture of these bright toys on the cover of Toy Story looks intriguing, reawakening the kid in us. Filmmaker John Lasseter's shorts (namely Knickknack and Tin Toy, which can be found on the Pixar video Tiny Toy Stories) illustrate not only a technical brilliance but also a great sense of humor—one in which the pun is always intended. Lasseter thinks of himself as a storyteller first and an animator second, much like another film innovator, Walt Disney.

Lasseter's story is universal and magical: what do toys do when they're not played with? Cowboy Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Andy's favorite bedroom toy, tries to calm the other toys (some original, some classic) during a wrenching time of year—the birthday party, when newer toys may replace them. Sure enough, Space Ranger Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) is the new toy that takes over the throne. Buzz has a crucial flaw, though—he believes he's the real Buzz Lightyear, not a toy. Bright and cheerful, Toy Story is much more than a 90-minute commercial for the inevitable bonanza of Woody and Buzz toys. Lasseter further scores with perfect voice casting, including Don Rickles as Mr. Potato Head and Wallace Shawn as a meek dinosaur. The director-animator won a special Oscar for "the development and inspired application of techniques that have made possible the first feature-length computer-animated film." In other words, the movie is great. —Doug Thomas

Toy Story 2
John Lasseter and his gang of high-tech creators at Pixar create another entertainment for the ages. Like the few great movie sequels, Toy Story 2 comments on why the first one was so wonderful while finding a fresh angle worthy of a new film. The craze of toy collecting becomes the focus here, as we find out Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks) is not only a beloved toy to Andy but also a rare doll from a popular '60s children's show. When a greedy collector takes Woody, Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) launches a rescue mission with Andy's other toys. To say more would be a crime because this is one of the most creative and smile-inducing films since, well, the first Toy Story.

Although the toys look the same as in the 1994 feature, Pixar shows how much technology has advanced: the human characters look more human, backgrounds are superior, and two action sequences that book-end the film are dazzling. And it's a hoot for kids and adults. The film is packed with spoofs, easily accessible in-jokes, and inspired voice casting (with newcomer Joan Cusack especially a delight as Cowgirl Jessie). But as the Pixar canon of films illustrates, the filmmakers are storytellers first. Woody's heart-tugging predicament can easily be translated into the eternal debate of living a good life versus living forever. Toy Story 2 also achieved something in the U.S. two other outstanding 1999 animated features (The Iron Giant, Princess Mononoke) could not: it became a huge box-office hit. —Doug Thomas
American Beauty
From its first gliding aerial shot of a generic suburban street, American Beauty moves with a mesmerizing confidence and acuity epitomized by Kevin Spacey's calm narration. Spacey is Lester Burnham, a harried Everyman whose midlife awakening is the spine of the story, and his very first lines hook us with their teasing fatalism—like Sunset Boulevard's Joe Gillis, Burnham tells us his story from beyond the grave.

It's an audacious start for a film that justifies that audacity. Weaving social satire, domestic tragedy, and whodunit into a single package, Alan Ball's first theatrical script dares to blur generic lines and keep us off balance, winking seamlessly from dark, scabrous comedy to deeply moving drama. The Burnham family joins the cinematic short list of great dysfunctional American families, as Lester is pitted against his manic, materialistic realtor wife, Carolyn (Annette Bening, making the most of a mostly unsympathetic role) and his sullen, contemptuous teenaged daughter, Jane (Thora Birch, utterly convincing in her edgy balance of self-absorption and wistful longing). Into their lives come two catalytic outsiders. A young cheerleader (Mena Suvari) jolts Lester into a sexual epiphany that blooms into a second adolescence. And an eerily calm young neighbor (Wes Bentley) transforms both Lester and Jane with his canny influence.

Credit another big-screen newcomer, English theatrical director Sam Mendes, with expertly juggling these potentially disjunctive elements into a superb ensemble piece that achieves a stylized pace without lapsing into transparent self-indulgence. Mendes has shrewdly insured his success with a solid crew of stage veterans, yet he's also made an inspired discovery in Bentley, whose Ricky Fitts becomes a fulcrum for both plot and theme. Cinematographer Conrad Hall's sumptuous visual design further elevates the film, infusing the beige interiors of the Burnhams' lives with vivid bursts of deep crimson, the color of roses—and of blood. —Sam Sutherland
Titan A.E.
A visual knockout, Titan A.E. is an ambitious animated feature that combines traditional animations, computer-generated imagery, and special effects in the service of a science fiction adventure plotted with narrative conventions familiar from Star Wars and Star Trek. Credit directors Don Bluth (An American Tail, The Secret of NIMH, Anastasia) and Gary Goldman with crafting a vivid, convincing look to this deep space saga, which conjures some stunning images. A tense opening sequence climaxing in the destruction of Earth, a watery planet where delicate but deadly hydrogen trees float, joyriding in a starship while pursued by playful "space angels," and a nerve-wracking journey through a lethal maze of massive ice crystals each qualify as mesmerizing sequences in any film context.

What's visually stunning proves intermittently stunted on the narrative front, however. Orphaned when the evil Drej atomize Earth, protagonist Cale (voiced by Matt Damon) must journey across space to unlock the mystery of his late father's final project, the Titan spacecraft, in a test of faith and filial identity that echoes Star Wars. The Titan itself ultimately poses a cosmic potential familiar to admirers of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Comical sidekicks (Nathan Lane, Janeane Garofalo, John Leguizamo), a sultry love interest (Drew Barrymore), and a roguish mentor (Bill Pullman) all verge on the generic, narrowly redeemed by dialogue from a writing team including Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon.

It's likely that Titan's target audience of young males prompted the filmmakers to walk a tightrope between softer family features and more violent, hard-edged anime. Titan's brief bloodshed and coy nudity stop short of PG-13 terrain, though younger viewers might be unsettled by the violence. Young teens will find the proceedings tamer than the video games and anime fantasies that have influenced it. —Sam Sutherland
Gladiator
A big-budget summer epic with money to burn and a scale worthy of its golden Hollywood predecessors, Ridley Scott's Gladiator is a rousing, grisly, action-packed epic that takes moviemaking back to the Roman Empire via computer-generated visual effects. While not as fluid as the computer work done for, say, Titanic, it's an impressive achievement that will leave you marveling at the glory that was Rome, when you're not marveling at the glory that is Russell Crowe. Starring as the heroic general Maximus, Crowe firmly cements his star status both in terms of screen presence and acting chops, carrying the film on his decidedly non-computer-generated shoulders as he goes from brave general to wounded fugitive to stoic slave to gladiator hero. Gladiator's plot is a whirlwind of faux-Shakespearean machinations of death, betrayal, power plays, and secret identities (with lots of faux-Shakespearean dialogue ladled on to keep the proceedings appropriately "classical"), but it's all briskly shot, edited, and paced with a contemporary sensibility. Even the action scenes, somewhat muted but graphic in terms of implied violence and liberal bloodletting, are shot with a veracity that brings to mind—believe it or not—Saving Private Ryan, even if everyone is wearing a toga. As Crowe's nemesis, the evil emperor Commodus, Joaquin Phoenix chews scenery with authority, whether he's damning Maximus's popularity with the Roman mobs or lusting after his sister Lucilla (beautiful but distant Connie Nielsen); Oliver Reed, in his last role, hits the perfect notes of camp and gravitas as the slave owner who rescues Maximus from death and turns him into a coliseum star. Director Scott's visual flair is abundantly in evidence, with breathtaking shots and beautiful (albeit digital) landscapes, but it's Crowe's star power that will keep you in thrall—he—he's a true gladiator, worthy of his legendary status. Hail the conquering hero! —Mark Englehart
The Cell (New Line Platinum Series)
Schizoid serial killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio) has been captured at last, but a neurological seizure has rendered him comatose, and FBI agent Peter Novak (Vince Vaughan) has no way to determine the location of Stargher's latest and still-living victim. To probe the secrets contained in Stargher's traumatized psyche, the FBI recruits psychologist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez), who has mastered a new technology that allows her to enter the mind of another person. What she finds in Stargher's head is a theater of the grotesque, which, as envisioned by first-time director Tarsem Singh, is a smorgasbord of the surreal that borrows liberally from the Brothers Quay, Czech animator Jan Svankmajer, Hieronymous Bosch, Salvador Dali, and a surplus of other cannibalized sources.

This provides one of the wildest, weirdest visual feasts ever committed to film, and The Cell earns a place among such movie mind-trips as 2001: A Space Odyssey, Altered States, What Dreams May Come, and Un Chien Andalou. Is this a good thing? Sure, if all you want is freakazoid eye-candy. If you're looking for emotional depth, substantial plot, and artistic coherence, The Cell is sure to disappoint. The pop-psychology pablum of Mark Protosevich's screenplay would be laughable if it weren't given such somber significance, and Singh's exploitative use of sadomasochistic imagery is repugnant (this movie makes Seven look tame), so you're better off marveling at the nightmare visions that are realized with astonishing potency. The Cell is too shallow to stay in your head for long, but while it's there, it's one hell of a show. —Jeff Shannon
Princess Mononoke
This epic, animated 1997 fantasy has already made history as the top-grossing domestic feature ever released in Japan, where its combination of mythic themes, mystical forces, and ravishing visuals tapped deeply into cultural identity and contemporary, ecological anxieties. For international animation and anime fans, Princess Mononoke represents an auspicious next step for its revered creator, Hayao Miyazaki (My Neighbor Totoro, Kiki's Delivery Service), an acknowledged anime pioneer, whose painterly style, vivid character design, and stylized approach to storytelling take ambitious, evolutionary steps here.

Set in medieval Japan, Miyazaki's original story envisions a struggle between nature and man. The march of technology, embodied in the dark iron forges of the ambitious Tatara clan, threatens the natural forces explicit in the benevolent Great God of the Forest and the wide-eyed, spectral spirits he protects. When Ashitaka, a young warrior from a remote, and endangered, village clan, kills a ravenous, boar-like monster, he discovers the beast is in fact an infectious "demon god," transformed by human anger. Ashitaka's quest to solve the beast's fatal curse brings him into the midst of human political intrigues as well as the more crucial battle between man and nature.

Miyazaki's convoluted fable is clearly not the stuff of kiddie matinees, nor is the often graphic violence depicted during the battles that ensue. If some younger viewers (or less attentive older ones) will wish for a diagram to sort out the players, Miyazaki's atmospheric world and its lush visual design are reasons enough to watch. For the English-language version, Miramax assembled an impressive vocal cast including Gillian Anderson, Billy Crudup (as Ashitaka), Claire Danes (as San), Minnie Driver (as Lady Eboshi), Billy Bob Thornton, and Jada Pinkett Smith. They bring added nuance to a very different kind of magic kingdom. Recommended for ages 12 and older. —Sam Sutherland
Zardoz
A bewigged Sean Connery is Zed, a savage "exterminator" commanded by the mysterious god Zardoz to eliminate Brutals, survivors of an unspecified worldwide catastrophe. Zed stows away inside Zardoz's enormous idol (a flying stone head) and is taken to the pastoral land of the Eternals, a matriarchal, quasi-medieval society that has achieved psychic abilities as well as immortality. Zed finds as much hope as disgust with the Eternals; their advancements have also robbed them of physical passion, turning their existence into a living death. Zed becomes the Eternals' unlikely messiah, but in order to save them—and himself—he must confront the truth behind Zardoz and his own identity inside the Tabernacle, the Eternals' omnipresent master computer.

A box office failure, John Boorman's Zardoz has developed a cult following among science fiction fans whose tastes run toward more cerebral fare, such as The Andromeda Strain and Phase IV. An entrancing if overly ambitious (by Boorman's own admission) film, Zardoz offers pointed commentary on class structure and religion inside its complex plot and head-movie visuals; its healthy doses of sex and violence will involve viewers even if the story machinations escape them. Beautifully photographed near Boorman's home in Ireland's Wicklow Mountains by Geoffrey Unsworth (2001), its production design is courtesy of longtime Boorman associate Anthony Pratt, who creates a believable society within the film's million-dollar budget. The letterboxed DVD presentation includes engaging commentary by Boorman, who discusses the special effects (all created in-camera) as well as working with a post-Bond Connery. —Paul Gaita
Best in Show
* * * * * Christopher Guest, the man behind Waiting for Guffman, turns his comic eye on another little world that takes itself a bit too seriously: the world of competitive dog shows. Best in Show follows a clutch of dog owners as they prepare and preen their dogs to win a national competition. They include the yuppie pair (Parker Posey and Michael Hitchcock) who fear they've traumatized their Weimaraner by having sex in front of him; a suburban husband and wife (Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara) with a terrier and a long history of previous lovers on the wife's part; the Southern owner of a bloodhound (Guest himself) with aspirations as a ventriloquist; and many more. Following the same "mockumentary" format of Spinal Tap and Guffman, Best in Show takes in some of the dog show officials, the manager of a nearby hotel that allows dogs to stay there, and the commentators of the competition (a particularly knockout comic turn by Fred Willard as an oafish announcer). The movie manages to paint an affectionate portrait of its quirky characters without ever losing sight of the ridiculousness of their obsessive world. Almost all of the scenes were created through improvisation. While lacking the overall focus of a written script, Best in Show captures hilarious and absurd aspects of human behavior that could never be written down. The movie's success is a testament to both the talent of the actors and Guest's discerning eye. —Bret Fetzer
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
Hong Kong wuxia films, or martial arts fantasies, traditionally squeeze poor acting, slapstick humor, and silly story lines between elaborate fight scenes in which characters can literally fly. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has no shortage of breathtaking battles, but it also has the dramatic soul of a Greek tragedy and the sweep of an epic romance. This is the work of director Ang Lee, who fell in love with movies while watching wuxia films as a youngster and made Crouching Tiger as a tribute to the form. To elevate the genre above its B-movie roots and broaden its appeal, Lee did two important things. First, he assembled an all-star lineup of talent, joining the famous Asian actors Chow Yun-fat and Michelle Yeoh with the striking, charismatic newcomer Zhang Ziyi. Behind the scenes, Lee called upon cinematographer Peter Pau (The Killer, The Bride with White Hair) and legendary fight choreographer Yuen Wo-ping, best known outside Asia for his work on The Matrix. Second, in adapting the story from a Chinese pulp-fiction novel written by Wang Du Lu, Lee focused not on the pursuit of a legendary sword known as "The Green Destiny," but instead on the struggles of his female leads against social obligation. In his hands, the requisite fight scenes become another means of expressing the individual spirits of his characters and their conflicts with society and each other.

The filming required an immense effort from all involved. Chow and Yeoh had to learn to speak Mandarin, which Lee insisted on using instead of Cantonese to achieve a more classic, lyrical feel. The astonishing battles between Jen (Zhang) and Yu Shu Lien (Yeoh) on the rooftops and Jen and Li Mu Bai (Chow) atop the branches of bamboo trees required weeks of excruciating wire and harness work (which in turn required meticulous "digital wire removal"). But the result is a seamless blend of action, romance, and social commentary in a populist film that, like its young star Zhang, soars with balletic grace and dignity. —Eugene Wei
Full Metal Jacket
Stanley Kubrick's 1987, penultimate film seemed to a lot of people to be contrived and out of touch with the '80s vogue for such intensely realistic portrayals of the Vietnam War as Platoon and The Deer Hunter. Certainly, Kubrick gave audiences plenty of reason to wonder why he made the film at all: essentially a two-part drama that begins on a Parris Island boot camp for rookie Marines and abruptly switches to Vietnam (actually shot on sound stages and locations near London), Full Metal Jacket comes across as a series of self-contained chapters in a story whose logical and thematic development is oblique at best. Then again, much the same was said about Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, a masterwork both enthralled with and satiric about the future's role in the unfinished business of human evolution. In a way, Full Metal Jacket is the wholly grim counterpart of 2001. While the latter is a truly 1960s film, both wide-eyed and wary, about the intertwining of progress and isolation (ending in our redemption, finally, by death), Full Metal Jacket is a cynical, Reagan-era view of the 1960s' hunger for experience and consciousness that fulfilled itself in violence. Lee Ermey made film history as the Marine drill instructor whose ritualized debasement of men in the name of tribal uniformity creates its darkest angel in a murderous half-wit (Vincent D'Onofrio). Matthew Modine gives a smart and savvy performance as Private Joker, the clowning, military journalist who yearns to get away from the propaganda machine and know firsthand the horrific revelation of the front line. In Full Metal Jacket, depravity and fulfillment go hand in hand, and it's no wonder Kubrick kept his steely distance from the material to make the point. —Tom Keogh
Stanley Kubrick Collection
With the 1957 release of Paths of Glory, Stanley Kubrick confirmed his early promise and joined the ranks of world-class filmmakers. The age of the auteur had arrived, and Kubrick was a prime candidate for inclusion in the pantheon of directors later canonized by critic Andrew Sarris in his influential book The American Cinema. Ironically, this was also the period during which Kubrick left his native soil for permanent residence in England, and from that point forward, the Kubrick mystique inflated to legendary proportions. But if Kubrick was no longer bringing himself to the world, he was certainly bringing the world to his films. From the comfort of his rural England estate and locations never far from London, Kubrick would command cinematic odysseys to isolated Colorado (in The Shining), battle-ravaged Vietnam (Full Metal Jacket), upscale New York City (Eyes Wide Shut), and, of course, Jupiter and Beyond the Infinite (in 2001: A Space Odyssey).

The New Stanley Kubrick Collection includes all eight of Kubrick's films from Lolita on—a quarter-century of brilliant, challenging cinema. This second edition adds Eyes Wide Shut to the previous collection and remastered sound on five of the films plus a new anamorphic edition of 2001. Purists have complained that Kubrick's last three films have been released in full-screen format only; this was in compliance with Kubrick's wishes, and the films do not suffer unduly from full-screen formatting. This set also features a new full-length documentary made by longtime Kubrick assistant Jan Harlan, Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures. The diversity of Kubrick's work is truly astonishing, even though the director's technical precision and steely perspective on humanity may strike uninitiated viewers as cold and even misanthropic. His films almost always received mixed (and sometimes scathingly negative) reviews upon their release, only to benefit from glowing reassessment as they grew entrenched in the public consciousness. Here, in all their glory, are the collected films of a genuine master, ripe for study and appreciation for many years to come. —Jeff Shannon
Unbreakable (Vista Series)
When Unbreakable was released, Bruce Willis confirmed that the film was the first in a proposed trilogy. Viewed in that context, this is a tantalizing and audaciously low-key thriller, with a plot that twists in several intriguing and unexpected directions. Standing alone, however, this somber, deliberately paced film requires patient leaps of faith—not altogether surprising, since this is writer-director M. Night Shyamalan's daring follow-up to The Sixth Sense. While just as assured as that earlier, phenomenal hit, Unbreakable is the work of a filmmaker whose skill exceeds his maturity, its confident style serving a story that borders on juvenile. However, Shyamalan's basic premise—that comic books are the primary conduit of modern mythology—is handled with substantial relevance.

Willis plays a Philadelphia security guard whose marriage is on the verge of failing when he becomes the sole, unscathed survivor of a devastating train wreck. When prompted by a mysterious, brittle-boned connoisseur of comic books (Samuel L. Jackson), he realizes that he's been free of illness and injury his entire life, lending credence to Jackson's theory that superheroes—and villains—exist in reality, and that Willis himself possesses extraordinary powers. Shyamalan presents these revelations with matter-of-fact gravity, and he draws performances (including those of Robin Wright Penn and Spencer Treat Clark, as Willis's wife and son) that are uniformly superb. The film's climactic revelation may strike some as ultimately silly and trivial, but if you're on Shyamalan's wavelength, the entire film will assume a greater degree of success and achievement. —Jeff Shannon
Waiting for Guffman
One of the funniest films in many a moon was hiding at art house theaters in 1998. Former Saturday Night Live comedian and Spinal Tap member Christopher Guest creates the ultimate parody of small-town dramatics, Waiting for Guffman. Corky St. Claire (Guest), an overwhelming drama director hiding out in Blaine, Missouri, thinks he has found the vehicle to put him back on Broadway: the city's 150th anniversary play, Red, White, and Blaine. As rehearsals start, we learn of the town's history ("the stool capital of the world") including a brush with a UFO. The mockumentary follows the various townsfolk wishing for stardom: Parker Posey as a Dairy Queen clerk, Catherine O'Hara and Fred Willard as stage-struck travel agents, Matthew Keeslar as the town's bad boy, and Eugene Levy (who cowrote the film with Guest) as a dentist who dreams of glory on the stage. The film is a hoot from beginning to end, and be sure to watch the closing credits. Fans of Guest's deft dry humor should not miss his other parody of the entertainment world, The Big Picture (Kevin Bacon as a student filmmaker who goes to Hollywood). —Doug Thomas
Dr. Strangelove
DR. STRANGELOVE OR: HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING AND LOVE THE BOMB is Stanley Kubrick's Cold War masterpiece. Based on the novel RED ALERT by Peter George, the film is set at the height of the tensions between Russia and the United States, when all it would take to destroy the world was one push of a button. And General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) is just the man to do it.
Stanley Kubrick a Life in Pictures
The career and life of Stanley Kubrick is explored through pictures, clips from his films, his old home movies, comments from his colleagues and a narration by Tom Cruise.
Star Trek - The Motion Picture
Back when the first Star Trek feature was released in December 1979, the Trek franchise was still relatively modest, consisting of the original TV series, an animated cartoon series from 1973-74, and a burgeoning fan network around the world. Series creator Gene Roddenberry had conceived a second TV series, but after the success of Star Wars the project was upgraded into this lavish feature film, which reunited the original series cast aboard a beautifully redesigned starship U.S.S. Enterprise. Under the direction of Robert Wise (best known for West Side Story), the film proved to be a mixed blessing for Trek fans, who heatedly debated its merits; but it was, of course, a phenomenal hit. Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) leads his crew into the vast structures surrounding V'Ger, an all-powerful being that is cutting a destructive course through Starfleet space. With his new First Officer (Stephen Collins), the bald and beautiful Lieutenant Ilia (played by the late Persis Khambatta) and his returning veteran crew, Kirk must decipher the secret of V'Ger's true purpose and restore the safety of the galaxy. The story is rather overblown and derivative of plots from the original series, and avid Trekkies greeted the film's bland costumes with derisive laughter. But as a feast for the eyes, this is an adventure worthy of big-screen trekkin'. Douglas Trumbull's visual effects are astonishing, and Jerry Goldmith's score is regarded as one of the prolific composer's very best (with its main theme later used for Star Trek: The Next Generation). And, fortunately for Star Trek fans, the expanded 143-minute version (originally shown for the film's network TV premiere) is generally considered an improvement over the original theatrical release. —Jeff Shannon
Willow
This epic Lucasfilm fantasy serves up enough magical adventure to satisfy fans of the genre, though it treads familiar territory. With abundant parallels to Star Wars, the story (by George Lucas) follows the exploits of the little farmer Willow (Warwick Davis), an aspiring sorcerer appointed to deliver an infant princess from the evil queen (Jean Marsh) to whom the child is a crucial threat. Val Kilmer plays the warrior who joins Willow's campaign with the evil queen's daughter (Joanne Whalley, who later married Kilmer). Impressive production values, stunning locations (in England, Wales, and New Zealand) and dazzling special effects energize the routine fantasy plot, which alternates between rousing action and cute sentiment while failing to engage the viewer's emotions. A parental warning is appropriate: director Ron Howard has a light touch aimed at younger viewers, but doesn't shy away from grisly swordplay and at least one monster (a wicked two-headed dragon) that could induce nightmares. —Jeff Shannon
Fritz the Cat
Advertised as "X-rated and Animated,"Fritz the Cat earned an impressive $25 million in 1972. Screenwriter-director Ralph Bakshi based the film on three of Robert Crumb's stories about a superficial college student who tried to seduce anything in a skirt. The gritty, often gross film shocked U.S. audiences accustomed to innocent flirtations and slapstick comedy in cartoons. Thirty years later, Fritz looks less shocking than puerile. The violence grafted onto Crumb's innocent stories feels gratuitous, and the racial imagery tasteless. As dated as a Nehru jacket, the film will interest students of animation history and American pop culture. Crumb detested the film: he drew Fritz as a decadent Hollywood star, who was exploited by caricatures of Bakshi and producer Steve Krantz—and murdered by a bitter ex-girlfriend. "Another casualty of the '60s..."—Charles Solomon
Hedwig and the Angry Inch (New Line Platinum Series)
Sometimes grace and hope come in surprising packages. The title character of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, a would-be glam-rock star from East Germany, undergoes a botched gender-change operation in order to escape from the Soviet bloc, only to watch the Berlin Wall come down on TV after being abandoned in a trailer park in middle America. Hedwig gets involved with Tommy, an adolescent boy who steals her songs and becomes a stadium-filling musical act. Suffering from a broken heart and a lust for revenge, Hedwig follows Tommy's tour, playing with her band (the Angry Inch) at tacky theme restaurants. Into this simple storyline, writer-director-star John Cameron Mitchell packs an astonishing mix of sadness, yearning, humor, and kick-ass songs with a little Platonic philosophy tucked inside for good measure. A visually dazzling gem of a movie. —Bret Fetzer
A.I. Artificial Intelligence
History will place an asterisk next to A.I. as the film Stanley Kubrick might have directed. But let the record also show that Kubrick—after developing this project for some 15 years—wanted Steven Spielberg to helm this astonishing sci-fi rendition of Pinocchio, claiming (with good reason) that it veered closer to Spielberg's kinder, gentler sensibilities. Spielberg inherited the project (based on the Brian Aldiss short story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long") after Kubrick's death in 1999, and the result is an astounding directorial hybrid. A flawed masterpiece of sorts, in which Spielberg's gift for wondrous enchantment often clashes (and sometimes melds) with Kubrick's harsher vision of humanity, the film spans near and distant futures with the fairy-tale adventures of an artificial boy named David (Haley Joel Osment), a marvel of cybernetic progress who wants only to be a real boy, loved by his mother in that happy place called home.

Echoes of Spielberg's Empire of the Sun are clearly heard as young David, shunned by his trial parents and tossed into an unfriendly world, is joined by fellow "mecha" Gigolo Joe (played with a dancer's agility by Jude Law) in his quest for a mother-and-child reunion. Parallels to Pinocchio intensify as David reaches "the end of the world" (a Manhattan flooded by melted polar ice caps), and a far-future epilogue propels A.I. into even deeper realms of wonder, even as it pulls Spielberg back to his comfort zone of sweetness and soothing sentiment. Some may lament the diffusion of Kubrick's original vision, but this is Spielberg's A.I. (complete with one of John Williams's finest scores), a film of astonishing technical wizardry that spans the spectrum of human emotions and offers just enough Kubrick to suggest that humanity's future is anything but guaranteed. —Jeff Shannon
Zoolander
Charge your micro-mini cell phones and whip up some orange mocha Frappuccino, 'cuz Zoolander is on the runway, and you're gonna laugh your booty off! Based on a sketch created by writer-director Ben Stiller and cowriter Drake Sather for the 1996 VH1/Vogue Fashion Awards, Zoolander is a delirious send-up of New York's fashion scene as epitomized by male model Derek Zoolander (Stiller), a dimwitted preener who's oblivious to a Manchurian Candidate-like plot to turn him into a brainwashed assassin. Tipped off by a reporter (Christina Taylor), Zoolander teams with rival model Hansel (Owen Wilson) to foil the poodle-haired fashion designer (Will Ferrell) who's behind the nefarious scheme. The goofy plot's only half the fun; with roles for Stiller's parents (Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara), dozens of celebrity cameos, endlessly quotable dialogue, and improvisational energy to spare, Zoolander is very smart about being very stupid, easily matching the Austin Powers franchise for inspired comedic lunacy. —Jeff Shannon
Ocean's Eleven
Ocean's Eleven improves on 1960's Rat Pack original with supernova casting, a slickly updated plot, and Steven Soderbergh's graceful touch behind the camera. Soderbergh reportedly relished the opportunity "to make a movie that has no desire except to give pleasure from beginning to end," and he succeeds on those terms, blessed by the casting of George Clooney as Danny Ocean, the title role originated by Frank Sinatra. Fresh out of jail, Ocean masterminds a plot to steal $163 million from the seemingly impervious vault of Las Vegas's Bellagio casino, not just for the money but to win his ex-wife (Julia Roberts) back from the casino's ruthless owner (Andy Garcia). Soderbergh doesn't scrimp on the caper's comically intricate strategy, but he finds greater joy in assembling a stellar team (including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, and Carl Reiner) and indulging their strengths as actors. The result is a film that's as smooth as a silk suit and just as stylish. —Jeff Shannon
Waking Life
Waking Life is a film that never settles down. Or maybe it never wakes up. Regardless, Richard Linklater's animated meditation seems to strike a perfect balance between the plotless meanderings of Slacker and the unquenchable knowledge-seeking of Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha. Any way you look at it, this is a weird, original movie.

As he attempts to figure out what separates dreams from reality, the protagonist (Dazed and Confused's Wiley Wiggins) hears an earful from everyone he stumbles upon. Ramblings range from the scholarly (Linklater's former college professor Robert C. Solomon gives a monologue) to the banal (of which there are plenty). Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, Steven Soderbergh, and Adam Goldberg all get animated cameos, basically playing themselves. The dream-centered dialogues eventually grow mind-numbing, but that's OK; the animation steals the show. Each frame of the movie, which was first shot with live actors, was painted over, and the process renders a distorted and trippy collage of sights and sounds. Linklater's film is ultimately quite poignant, but, as with any good journey, you'll need to sit through some fairly tedious moments before reaching the destination. —Jason Verlinde
The Naked Gun DVD Gift Set
The Boondock Saints
Charismatic young stars Sean Patrick Flanery and Norman Reedus play two Irish brothers, Connor and Murphy, who believe themselves ordained by God to rid the world of evil men. Their first killing is in self-defense; but after that, they start killing with devotion, gunning down a summit of the Russian mafia. Willem Dafoe plays a gay FBI agent (he listens to opera while examining crime scenes) who knows what the boys are doing but feels that their vigilante tactics are necessary. There's not much plot to The Boondock Saints—it—it's mostly a series of violent scenes in which the boys are partially ingenious and partially lucky. The movie seems to want to provoke debate about vigilantism, but the scenario is too implausible to stir any real controversy. The peculiar mix of earnestness and machismo will not appeal to everyone, but it's certainly unique and may acquire a cult following. —Bret Fetzer
Vanilla Sky
Vanilla Sky reunites director Cameron Crowe (Jerry Maguire) with über-playboy Tom Cruise, adds another sexy Cruz (Penélope) and Cameron Diaz for good measure, and delivers a wildly entertaining, bizarre venture into erotic science fiction. Adapted near exactly from Spanish filmmaker Alejandro Amenábar's 1997 romantic thriller Open Your Eyes, the film follows David Aames (Cruise) as he falls from his graceful Manhattan perch of inordinate wealth, good looks, and newfound love with Sofia (Cruz) because of severe facial disfigurement in a car accident caused by a suicidal ex-lover (Diaz). What at first promises to be a conventional allegory of redemption via true love is turned on its head as Cruise's character, reduced to wearing a latex mask and spurned by his friends, wins back his princess only after a miracle of plastic surgery restores his former beauty. A series of plot twists follows as waking life, technological advances, and nightmares flip-flop to dizzying effect and David ultimately comes face to face with his own mortality. Despite a final conceit to some vague morality, the appeal of the film is the wonderfully callous message conveyed by the rest of it (money and physical beauty equal happiness) through an unabashed vanity perfectly embodied by Cruise and Cruz. A delicious, decadent treat. —Fionn Meade
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Widescreen Special Edition) (Harry Potter 1)
Here's an event movie that holds up to being an event. This filmed version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, adapted from the wildly popular book by J.K. Rowling, stunningly brings to life Harry Potter's world of Hogwarts, the school for young witches and wizards. The greatest strength of the film comes from its faithfulness to the novel, and this new cinematic world is filled with all the details of Rowling's imagination, thanks to exuberant sets, elaborate costumes, clever makeup and visual effects, and a crème de la crème cast, including Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, and more. Especially fine is the interplay between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his schoolmates Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), as well as his protector, the looming Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane). The second-half adventure—involving the titular sorcerer's stone—doesn—doesn't translate perfectly from page to screen, ultimately because of the film's fidelity to the novel; this is a case of making a movie for the book's fans, as opposed to a transcending film. Writer Steve Kloves and director Chris Columbus keep the spooks in check, making this a true family film, and with its resourceful hero wide-eyed and ready, one can't wait for Harry's return. Ages 8 and up. —Doug Thomas
Muppet Treasure Island
Kids love this Muppet take on Robert Louis Stevenson's pirate classic, about the pirate Long John Silver (Tim Curry) and his takeover of a ship in order to track down buried treasure. His friend and then nemesis is earnest cabin boy Jim Hawkins (Kevin Bishop), who teams with the captain of the ship (Kermit the Frog) and several shipmates (including Gonzo, Ratso, and Fozzie) to foil Long John's nefarious plot. An odd subplot finds Captain Kermit stopping at a desert island to find his long-lost love (Miss Piggy—who else?). The Muppets have not lost their wild sense of humor, which works on enough levels to amply entertain children and their parents in imaginative fashion. —Marshall Fine
The Royal Tenenbaums (The Criterion Collection)
In a fitting follow-up to Rushmore, writer-director Wes Anderson and cowriter-actor Owen Wilson have crafted another comedic masterwork that ripples with inventive, richly emotional substance. Because of the all-star cast, hilarious dialogue, and oddball characters existing in their own, wholly original universe, it's easy to miss the depth and complexity of Anderson's brand of comedy. Here, it revolves around Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman), the errant patriarch of a dysfunctional family of geniuses, including precocious playwright Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), boyish financier and grieving widower Chas (Ben Stiller), and has-been tennis pro Richie (Luke Wilson). All were raised with supportive detachment by mother Etheline (Anjelica Huston), and all ache profoundly for a togetherness they never really had. The Tenenbaums reconcile somehow, but only after Anderson and Wilson (who costars as a loopy literary celebrity) put them through a compassionate series of quirky confrontations and rekindled affections. Not for every taste, but this is brilliant work from any perspective. —Jeff Shannon
The Time Machine [2002] (REGION 1) (NTSC)
Reinterpreting HG Wells'The Time Machine, one of the most well-loved science fiction classics both as a book and in its 1960 film incarnation, was always going to risk critical condemnation. Yet despite all the problems experienced in making the film (reshoots, September 11 comparison fears, Guy Pearce breaking a rib), this new Time Machine is still great fun. Critics and naysayers may point at the obvious timeline gaffes, the lazy groundlaying for a sequel, or even the radical departure from Wells' scenario, but the film is still gorgeous to look at and imbued with a sense of carefree adventure. Pearce plays Professor Hartdegen with just the right touch of distraction turning into passionate resolve. The secondary cast all manage to make something of their brief on-screen appearances, too, notably Mark Addy as faithful friend Philby, Samantha Mumba as Morlock babe Mara and Jeremy Irons making more of his shadowy baddie than might be thought likely. The film's chief accomplishment is that it in no way supersedes the George Pal version. If anything, it enriches the spirit of fun it has happily inherited.

On the DVD:The Time Machine 2002 incarnation has picture (2.35:1) and sound (Dolby 5.1) that are as pristine as you'd expect from so recent a digital FX extravaganza. In the extras department there's plenty to keep you busy: a gallery of production drawings, an action sequence animatic, three trailers, four mini-documentaries on stunts, FX, Morlocks and building the Time Machine. The only thing missing is anything acknowledging the 1960 version or the link with director Simon Wells (the author's great-grandson). Wells joins editor Wayne Wahrman for one commentary track dealing with the broad strokes of conceptualisation and changes along the way. Commentary two is from the Designer, FX Supervisor and Producer, so is naturally more technically focused. —Paul Tonks
Resident Evil
Marilyn Manson worked on the soundtrack, so it's no surprise that Resident Evil is best enjoyed by headbangers, goth guys, and PlayStation junkies. Like the interactive game it's based on, this horror hybrid pits a small band of SWAT-like commandos (including Milla Jovovich and Girlfight's Michelle Rodriguez) against a ravenous hoard of zombies, resulting in a gorefest that only sociopaths could love. The tenacious heroes are trapped inside the Hive—an underground complex where an evil corporation conducts illegal research with a deadly virus—and the zombies (reanimated corpses of sacrificed employees) are fodder for endless rounds of gunfire. It's utter nonsense (not unlike director Paul W.S. Anderson's previous Event Horizon), so your best defense is to wallow in it or avoid this trash altogether. A few cool sequences are borrowed from better films (that slice-and-dice laser is cribbed from the 1998 Canadian shocker Cube), but if you're in the mood for heavy-metal carnage, this movie's for you. —Jeff Shannon
Pulp Fiction
With the knockout one-two punch of 1992's Reservoir Dogs and 1994's Pulp Fiction writer-director Quentin Tarantino stunned the filmmaking world, exploding into prominence as a cinematic heavyweight contender. But Pulp Fiction was more than just the follow-up to an impressive first feature, or the winner of the Palme d'Or at Cannes Film Festival, or a script stuffed with the sort of juicy bubblegum dialogue actors just love to chew, or the vehicle that reestablished John Travolta on the A-list, or the relatively low-budget ($8 million) independent showcase for an ultrahip mixture of established marquee names and rising stars from the indie scene (among them Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman, Bruce Willis, Ving Rhames, Harvey Keitel, Christopher Walken, Tim Roth, Amanda Plummer, Julia Sweeney, Kathy Griffin, and Phil Lamar). It was more, even, than an unprecedented $100-million-plus hit for indie distributor Miramax. Pulp Fiction was a sensation. No, it was not the Second Coming (I actually think Reservoir Dogs is a more substantial film; and P.T. Anderson outdid Tarantino in 1997 by making his directorial debut with two even more mature and accomplished pictures, Hard Eight and Boogie Nights). But Pulp Fiction packs so much energy and invention into telling its nonchronologically interwoven short stories (all about temptation, corruption, and redemption amongst modern criminals, large and small) it leaves viewers both exhilarated and exhausted—hearts racing and knuckles white from the ride. (Oh, and the infectious, surf-guitar-based soundtrack is tastier than a Royale with Cheese.) —Jim Emerson
Big Trouble in Little China
Once you settle into the realization that this 1986 John Carpenter (Halloween) film is not going to be one of the director's more masterful works, Big Trouble in Little China just becomes a full-tilt comic blast. Kurt Russell is hilarious as a drawling, would-be John Wayne hero who steps into the middle of a supernatural war in the heart of Chinatown. While kung fu warriors and otherworldly spirits battle over the fate of two women (Kim Cattrall and Suzee Pai), Russell's swaggering idiot manages to knock himself out or underestimate the forces he's dealing with. The whole thing is dopey, but it's supposed to be dopey and Russell's game performance brings an ironic edge. Carpenter directs some nifty spook effects (the sudden arrival of three martial arts demigods from out of nowhere is worth applause), and he also wrote the music. —Tom Keogh
Blade II (New Line Platinum Series)
Aptly described by critic Roger Ebert as "a vomitorium of viscera,"Blade II takes the express route to sequel success. So if you enjoyed Blade, you'll probably drool over this monster mash, which is anything but boring. Set (and filmed) in Prague, the plot finds a new crop of "Reaper" vampires threatening to implement a viral breeding program, and they're nearly impervious to attacks by Blade (Wesley Snipes), his now-revived mentor Whistler (Kris Kristofferson), and a small army of "normal" vampires who routinely combust in a constant conflagration of spectacular special effects. It's up to Blade to conquer the über-vamps, and both Snipes and director Guillermo del Toro (Mimic) serve up a nonstop smorgasbord of intensely choreographed action, creepy makeup, and graphic ultraviolence. It's sadistic, juvenile, numbing, and—for those who dig this kind of thing—undeniably impressive. With the ever-imposing Ron Perlman as a vampire villain. —Jeff Shannon
Spaced Invaders
They're hip! They're hilarious! Earth will never be the same! It's a close encounter of the hilarious kind when five of the universe's coolest aliens crash-land on planet Earth! Piloted by an ultrahip Martian, the cosmic crew ends up in a sleepy Midwestern town. Unfortunately, it's Halloween night and the citizens mistake these spaced invaders for harmless trick-or-treaters. Instead of the global invasion they planned on, these misguided Martians bungle their way into a series of madcap misadventures! Get set for an outrageous blast of intergalactic fun and outlandish special effects in this wacked-out comedy-adventure!
Star Trek III - The Search for Spock
You didn't think Mr. Spock was really dead, did you? When Spock's casket landed on the surface of the Genesis planet at the end of Star Trek II, we had already been told that Genesis had the power to bring "life from lifelessness." So it's no surprise that this energetic but somewhat hokey sequel gives Spock a new lease on life, beginning with his rebirth and rapid growth as the Genesis planet literally shakes itself apart in a series of tumultuous geological spasms. As Kirk is getting to know his estranged son (Merritt Butrick), he must also do battle with the fiendish Klingon Kruge (Christopher Lloyd), who is determined to seize the power of Genesis from the Federation. Meanwhile, the regenerated Spock returns to his home planet, and Star Trek III gains considerable interest by exploring the ceremonial (and, of course, highly logical) traditions of Vulcan society. The movie's a minor disappointment compared to Star Trek II, but it's a—well, logical—sequel that successfully restores Spock (and first-time film director Leonard Nimoy) to the phenomenal Trek franchise...as if he were ever really gone. With Kirk's willful destruction of the U.S.S. Enterprise and Robin Curtis replacing the departing Kirstie Alley as Vulcan Lt. Saavik, this was clearly a transitional film in the series, clearing the way for the highly popular Star Trek IV. —Jeff Shannon
Spider-Man
For devoted fans and nonfans alike, Spider-Man offers nothing less—and nothing more—than what you'd expect from a superhero blockbuster. Having proven his comic-book savvy with the original Darkman, director Sam Raimi brings ample energy and enthusiasm to Spidey's origin story, nicely establishing high-school nebbish Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) as a brainy outcast who reacts with appropriate euphoria—and well-tempered maturity—when a "super-spider" bite transforms him into the amazingly agile, web-shooting Spider-Man. That's all well and good, and so is Kirsten Dunst as Parker's girl-next-door sweetheart. Where Spider-Man falls short is in its hyperactive CGI action sequences, which play like a video game instead of the gravity-defying exploits of a flesh-and-blood superhero. Willem Dafoe is perfectly cast as Spidey's schizoid nemesis, the Green Goblin, and the movie's a lot of fun overall. It's no match for Superman and Batman in bringing a beloved character to the screen, but it places a respectable third. —Jeff Shannon
Being John Malkovich (Ws Spec)
While too many movies suffer the fate of creative bankruptcy, Being John Malkovich is a refreshing study in contrast, so bracingly original that you'll want to send director Spike Jonze and screenwriter Charlie Kaufman a thank-you note for restoring your faith in the enchantment of film. Even if it ultimately serves little purpose beyond the thrill of comedic invention, this demented romance is gloriously entertaining, spilling over with ideas that tickle the brain and even touch the heart. That's to be expected in a movie that dares to ponder the existential dilemma of a forlorn puppeteer (John Cusack) who discovers a metaphysical portal into the brain of actor John Malkovich.

The puppeteer's working as a file clerk on the seventh-and-a-half floor of a Manhattan office building; this idea alone might serve as the comedic basis for an entire film, but Jonze and Kaufman are just getting started. Add a devious coworker (Catherine Keener), Cusack's dowdy wife (a barely recognizable Cameron Diaz), and a business scheme to capitalize on the thrill of being John Malkovich, and you've got a movie that just gets crazier as it plays by its own outrageous rules. Malkovich himself is the film's pièce de résistance, riffing on his own persona with obvious delight and—when he enters his own brain via the portal—appearing with multiple versions of himself in a tour-de-force use of digital trickery. Does it add up to much? Not really. But for 112 liberating minutes, Being John Malkovich is a wild place to visit. —Jeff Shannon
The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring
In every aspect, the extended-edition DVD of Peter Jackson's epic fantasy The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring blows away the theatrical-version DVD. No one who cares at all about the film should ever need to watch the original version again. Well, maybe the impatient and the squeamish will still prefer the theatrical version, because the extended edition makes a long film 30 minutes longer and there's a bit more violence (though both versions are rated PG-13). But the changes—sometimes whole scenes, sometimes merely a few seconds—make for a richer film. There's more of the spirit of J.R.R. Tolkien, embodied in more songs and a longer opening focusing on Hobbiton. There's more character development, and more background into what is to come in the two subsequent films, such as Galadriel's gifts to the Fellowship and Aragorn's burden of lineage. And some additions make more sense to the plot, or are merely worth seeing, such as the wood elves leaving Middle-earth or the view of Caras Galadhon (but sorry, there's still no Tom Bombadil). Extremely useful are the chapter menus that indicate which scenes are new or extended.

Of the four commentary tracks, the ones with the greatest general appeal are the one by Jackson and cowriters Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, and the one by 10 cast members, but the more technically oriented commentaries by the creative and production staff are also worth hearing. The bonus features (encompassing two complete DVDs) are far superior to the largely promotional materials included on the theatrical release, delving into such matters as script development, casting, and visual effects. The only drawback is that the film is now spread over two discs, with a somewhat abrupt break following the council at Rivendell, due to the storage capacity required for the longer running time, the added DTS ES 6.1 audio, and the commentary tracks. But that's a minor inconvenience. Whether in this four-disc set or in the collector's gift set (which adds Argonath bookends and a DVD of National Geographic Beyond the Movie: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring), the extended-edition DVD is the Fellowship DVD to rule them all. —David Horiuchi
Avalon
Asia exclusive release of Avalon, directed by Mamoru Oshii (Ghost In The Shell). In the future world, young people are increasingly becoming addicted to an illegal (and potentially deadly) battle simulation game called Avalon. When a star player hears of rumors that a more advanced level of the game exists somewhere, she gives up her loner ways and joins a gang of explorers. Even if she finds the gateway to the next level, will she ever be able to come back to reality. Dolby digital 5.1. Stereo. Code 3 / NTSC. Original Polish dialogue with optional English & Chinese subtitles. Panorama Entertainment. 2001.
Men in Black II
More remake than sequel, Men in Black II safely repeats everything that made Men in Black the blockbuster hit of 1997. That's fine if you loved the original's fresh humor, weird aliens, and loopy ingenuity, but as sequels go, it's pure déjà vu. Makeup wizard Rick Baker is the only MIB alumnus who's trying anything new, while director Barry Sonnenfeld and costars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (as alien-fighting agents Jay and Kay, respectively) are on autopilot with an uninspired screenplay. The quest of a multitentacled alien—on Earth in the form of Lara Flynn Boyle—for the light of Zartha requires Jay to deneuralize Kay, whose restored memory contains the key to saving the planet. The tissue-thin premise allows all varieties of special effects—mostly familiar, with some oddly hilarious new stuff tossed in for good measure. Certainly enjoyable as a popcorn distraction, but the MIB magic has worn a bit thin. —Jeff Shannon
Minority Report
Set in the chillingly possible future of 2054, Steven Spielberg's Minority Report is arguably the most intelligently provocative sci-fi thriller since Blade Runner. Like Ridley Scott's "future noir" classic, Spielberg's gritty vision was freely adapted from a story by Philip K. Dick, with its central premise of "Precrime" law enforcement, totally reliant on three isolated human "precogs" capable (due to drug-related mutation) of envisioning murders before they're committed. As Precrime's confident captain, Tom Cruise preempts these killings like a true action hero, only to run for his life when he is himself implicated in one of the precogs' visions. Inspired by the brainstorming of expert futurists, Spielberg packs this paranoid chase with potential conspirators (Max Von Sydow, Colin Farrell), domestic tragedy, and a heartbreaking precog pawn (Samantha Morton), while Cruise's performance gains depth and substance with each passing scene. Making judicious use of astonishing special effects, Minority Report brilliantly extrapolates a future that's utterly convincing, and too close for comfort. —Jeff Shannon
Red Dwarf: Series 2
The second series of Red Dwarf was, as Danny John-Jules says in the accompanying DVD commentary, "the one where it really went good." First broadcast in the autumn of 1988, these six episodes showcase Rob Grant and Doug Naylor's sardonic, sarcastic humor to perfection. The cast had gelled and the occasionally erratic tone of the first series—which was made a little too much in the shadow of Dark Star and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy—is replaced by a confident assurance that the show's mix of sci-fi in-jokes and gags about bodily functions really does work. There's more color this year, too, as the drab sets are spiced up, a little more money has been assigned to models and special effects, and the crew even goes on location once in a while.

"Kryten" introduces us to the eponymous house robot (here played by David Ross), although after this first episode he was not to reappear until series 3, when Robert Llewellyn made the role his own. Then in "Better Than Life" the show produced one of its all-time classic episodes, as the boys from the Dwarf take part in a virtual reality game that's ruined by Rimmer's tortured psyche. Other highlights include "Queeg," in which Holly is replaced by a domineering computer personality; the baffling time-travel paradox of "Stasis Leak"; the puzzling conundrum of "Thanks for the Memory"; and the astonishingly feminine "Parallel Universe."—Mark Walker
Star Trek IV - The Voyage Home
Widely considered the best movie in the "classic Trek" series of feature films, Star Trek IV returns to one of the favorite themes of the original TV series—time travel—to bring Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Scotty, Sulu, Uhura, and Chekov from the 23rd century to present-day San Francisco. In their own time, the Starfleet heroes encounter an alien probe emitting a mysterious message—a message delivered in the song of the now-extinct Earth species of humpback whales. Failure to respond to the probe will result in Earth's destruction, so Kirk and company time-travel to 20th-century Earth—in their captured Klingon starship—to transport a humpback whale to the future in an effort to peacefully communicate with the alien probe. The plot sounds somewhat absurd in description, but as executed by returning director Leonard Nimoy, this turned out to be a crowd-pleasing adventure, filled with humor and lively interaction among the favorite Star Trek characters. Catherine Hicks (from TV's 7th Heaven) plays the 20th-century whale expert who is finally convinced of Kirk's and Spock's benevolent intentions. With ample comedy taken from the clash of future heroes with 20th-century urban realities, Star Trek IV was a box-office smash, satisfying mainstream audiences and hardcore Trek fans alike. —Jeff Shannon
Reservoir Dogs
Quentin Tarantino came out of nowhere (i.e., a video store in Manhattan Beach, California) and turned Hollywood on its ear in 1992 with his explosive first feature, Reservoir Dogs. Like Tarantino's mainstream breakthrough Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs has an unconventional structure, cleverly shuffling back and forth in time to reveal details about the characters, experienced criminals who know next to nothing about each other. Joe (Lawrence Tierney) has assembled them to pull off a simple heist, and has gruffly assigned them color-coded aliases (Mr. Orange, Mr. Pink, Mr. White) to conceal their identities from being known even to each other. But something has gone wrong, and the plan has blown up in their faces. One by one, the surviving robbers find their way back to their prearranged warehouse hideout. There, they try to piece together the chronology of this bloody fiasco—and to identify the traitor among them who tipped off the police. Pressure mounts, blood flows, accusations and bullets fly. In the combustible atmosphere these men are forced to confront life-and-death questions of trust, loyalty, professionalism, deception, and betrayal. As many critics have observed, it is a movie about "honor among thieves" (just as Pulp Fiction is about redemption, and Jackie Brown is about survival). Along with everything else, the movie provides a showcase for a terrific ensemble of actors: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Steve Buscemi, Michael Madsen, Christopher Penn, and Tarantino himself, offering a fervent dissection of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" over breakfast. Reservoir Dogs is violent (though the violence is implied rather than explicit), clever, gabby, harrowing, funny, suspenseful, and even—in the end—unexpectedly moving. (Don't forget that "Super Sounds of the Seventies" soundtrack, either.) Reservoir Dogs deserves just as much acclaim and attention as its follow-up, Pulp Fiction, would receive two years later. —Jim Emerson
Futurama, Vol. 1
Set in the year 3000, Futurama is the acme of sci-fi animated sitcom from Simpsons creator Matt Groening. While not as universally popular as The Simpsons, Futurama is equally hip and hilarious, thanks to its zippy lateral-thinking contemporary pop cultural references, celebrity appearances (Pamela Anderson and Leonard Nimoy are among a number of guest stars to appear as disembodied heads in jars), and Bender, a distinctly Homer Simpson-esque robot. Part of Futurama's charm is that with decades of sci-fi junk behind us, we've effectively been living with the distant future for years and can now have fun with it. Hence, the series stylishly jumbles motifs ranging from Lost in Space-style kitsch to the grim dystopia of Blade Runner. It also bridges the gap between the impossible dreams of your average science fiction fan and the slobbish reality of their comic reading, TV-watching existence. Groening himself distinguishes his two series thus: "The Simpsons is fictional. Futurama is real."

The opening season (premiered in 1999) sees nerdy pizza delivery boy Fry transferred to the 31st century in a cryogenic mishap. There, he meets the beautiful, one-eyed Leela (voiced by Married with Children's Katey Sagal) and the incorrigible alcoholic robot Bender. The three of them join Fry's great (great, great, etc.) nephew Professor Farnsworth and work in his intergalactic delivery service. Hyper-real yet strangely recognizable situations ensue—Fry discovers he's a billionaire thanks to 1,000 years' accrued interest, Leela must fend off the attentions of Captain Kirk-like Lothario Zapp Brannigan, and Fry accidentally drinks the ruler of a strange planet of liquid beings. —David Stubbs
Red Dragon - Collector's Edition
A lot could've gone wrong in Red Dragon, but the movie exceeds expectations. Replacing the acclaimed Manhunter as an "official" entry in the Hannibal Lecter trilogy, this topnotch thriller—the second adaptation of Thomas Harris's first Lecter novel—returns to the fertile soil of The Silence of the Lambs, serving as both prequel and heir to the legacy of Lecter as portrayed, with mischievous menace, by the great Anthony Hopkins. Familiar faces and locations reappear (along with Lambs screenwriter Ted Tally) as Lecter coaches FBI profiler Will Graham (Edward Norton) in tracking the horrific "Tooth Fairy" killer (Ralph Fiennes), whose transformative killing spree is inspired by a William Blake painting. By dutifully serving Harris's potent material, Tally and director Brett Ratner craft a suspenseful film worthy of its predecessors, bringing Hopkins full circle as one of the cinema's all-time greatest villains. With overtones of Psycho and a superb supporting cast, Red Dragon succeeds against considerable odds. —Jeff Shannon
Castle in the Sky
Inspired by "Gulliver's Travels," the fantasy-adventure Castle in the Sky (1986) was Hayao Miyazaki's third feature, and helped to establish his reputation as a visionary in both Japan and America. The orphan Sheeta inherited a mysterious crystal that links her to the legendary sky-kingdom of Laputa. With the help of resourceful Pazu and a rollicking band of sky pirates, she makes her way to the ruins of the once-great civilization. Sheeta and Pazu must outwit the evil Muska, who plans to use Laputa's science to make himself ruler of the world. Castle echoes elements in Myazaki's earlier Nausicaä, and anticipates imagery in his later films, from My Neighbor Totoro to Spirited Away. Disney's new English dub, which features Anna Paquin (Sheeta), James Van Der Beek (Pazu), and Cloris Leachman (pirate matriarch Dola), is lively and close in tone to the original Japanese, if a bit talkier. The exciting flying sequences, appealing characters, and fantastic vision of a steam-powered future Jules Verne might have imagined make Castle in the Sky a must-have for fans of Japanese and Western animation. (Unrated: suitable for ages 10 and older: violence) —Charles Solomon
Spirited Away
The highest grossing film in Japanese box-office history (more than $234 million), Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away (Sen To Chihiro Kamikakushi) is a dazzling film that reasserts the power of drawn animation to create fantasy worlds. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz and Lewis Carroll's Alice, Chihiro (voice by Daveigh Chase—Lilo in Disney's Lilo & Stitch) plunges into an alternate reality. On the way to their new home, the petulant adolescent and her parents find what they think is a deserted amusement park. Her parents stuff themselves until they turn into pigs, and Chihiro discovers they're trapped in a resort for traditional Japanese gods and spirits. An oddly familiar boy named Haku (Jason Marsden) instructs Chihiro to request a job from Yubaba (Suzanne Pleshette), the greedy witch who rules the spa. As she works, Chihiro's untapped qualities keep her from being corrupted by the greed that pervades Yubaba's mini-empire. In a series of fantastic adventures, she purges a river god suffering from human pollution, rescues the mysterious No-Face, and befriends Yubaba's kindly twin, Zeniba (Pleshette again). The resolve, bravery, and love Chihiro discovers within herself enable her to aid Haku and save her parents. The result is a moving and magical journey, told with consummate skill by one of the masters of contemporary animation. MPAA Rated: PG ("Some scary moments") —Charles Solomon
Equilibrium
A broad science fiction thriller in a classic vein, Equilibrium takes a respectable stab at a Fahrenheit 451-like cautionary fable. The story finds Earth's post-World War III humankind in a state of severe emotional repression: If no one feels anything, no one will be inspired by dark passions to attack their neighbors. Writer-director Kurt Wimmer's monochromatic, Metropolis-influenced cityscape provides an excellent backdrop to the heavy-handed mission of John Preston (Christian Bale), a top cop who busts "sense offenders" and crushes sentimental, sensual, and artistic relics from a bygone era. Predictably, Preston becomes intrigued by his victims and that which they die to cherish; he stops taking his mandatory, mood-flattening drug and is even aroused by a doomed prisoner (Emily Watson). Wimmer's wrongheaded martial arts/dueling guns motif is sheer silliness (a battle over a puppy doesn't help), but Equilibrium should be seen for Bale's moving performance as a man shocked back to human feeling. —Tom Keogh
Star Trek - Nemesis
The sacrifice of a beloved character is just one of many highlights in Nemesis, the 10th feature in the lucrative Star Trek franchise. Enigmatically billed as the beginning of "A Generation's Final Journey," this richly plotted Next Generation adventure maintains the "even number rule" regarding Trek's feature quality, and it's one of the best in the series. It hits its brisk stride when Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his Enterprise-E crew encounter Shinzon (Tom Hardy), a younger clone of Picard, rejected by the Romulans as the human weapon of an abandoned conspiracy. Raised on the nocturnal Romulan sister planet Remus, Shinzon now plots revenge against Romulus and Earth but needs Picard's blood to carry out his scheme. A wedding, a childlike "duplicate" Data named B-4 (Brent Spiner), spectacular space battles, and uncommon acts of valor make this a tautly-paced action thriller, poised to pass the franchise (but not quite yet) to a new generation of Starfleet personnel. Die-hard Trekkers will not be disappointed. —Jeff Shannon
By Brakhage - Anthology - Criterion Collection
While you go out to see most other kinds of movies, you must go inward to see the extraordinary avant-garde films of Stan Brakhage. Foremost among American experimental film artists, Brakhage influenced the evolution of the moving image for nearly 50 years (his impact is readily seen on MTV), and this meticulously prepared Criterion Collection anthology represents a virtual goldmine of Brakhage's finest, most challenging work. Challenging because—as observed by Brakhage film scholar Fred Camper in the accompanying booklet—these 26 carefully selected films require the viewer to be fully receptive to "the act of seeing with one's own eyes" (to quote the title of one film, consisting entirely of autopsy footage), which is to say, open to the perceptual and psychological responses that are provoked by Brakhage's non-narrative shorts, ranging here from nine seconds to 31 minutes in length. While "Dog Star Man" (1961-64) is regarded as Brakhage's masterpiece, what emerges from this superb collection is the creative coherence of Brakhage's total vision. Through multilayered textures (often painted or scratched directly on film) and infinite combinations of imagery and rhythmic cutting, these films (most of them soundless) represent the most daring and purely artistic fulfillment of Criterion's ongoing goal to preserve important films on DVD. —Jeff Shannon
Futurama, Vol. 2
Matt Groening's second season of the 31st century sci-fi sitcom Futurama maintained the high scripting standards of the first and also well brought improved digital animation. Couch potato Fry now seems thoroughly reconciled to his new existence, transported 10 centuries hence to "New New York" and working for Professor Farmsworth's delivery service. He's surrounded by a cast of freaks, including the bitchily cute Amy (with whom he has a romantic brush) and Hermes, the West Indian bureaucrat. Most sympathetic is the one-eyed Leela (voiced by Katey Segal). Like Lisa Simpson, she is brilliant but unappreciated; she finds solace in her pet Nibbler, a tiny creature with a voracious, carnivorous appetite. By contrast, Bender, the robot, is programmed with every human vice, a sort of metal Homer Simpson with a malevolent streak.

In one of the best episodes, Bender is given a "feelings" chip in order to empathize with Leela after he flushes Nibbler down the toilet. Elsewhere, Fry falls in love with a mermaid when the team discover the lost city of Atlanta, Fry and Bender end up going to war after they join the army to get a discount on gum, and John Goodman guest stars as Santa Claus, an eight-foot gun-toting robot. Brimful with blink-and-you'll-miss-them hip jokes (such as the sign for the Taco Bellevue hospital) and political and pop satire, Futurama isn't a stern warning of things to come but rather, as the makers put it, "a brilliant, hilarious reflection of our own materially (ridiculously) overdeveloped but morally underdeveloped society."—David Stubbs
A Mighty Wind
There's A Mighty Wind a-blowin', along with the gales of laughter you'll get from Christopher Guest's third exercise in brilliant "mockumentary." After tackling small-town theatricals in Waiting for Guffman and obsessive dog-show contestants in Best in Show, Guest and his reliable stable of repertory players (including Fred Willard, Parker Posey, and Bob Balaban) apply their improvisational genius to a latter-day reunion of fictional '60s-era folk singers, a comedic goldmine that Guest first explored 30 years earlier on The National Lampoon Radio Hour. Collaborating with costar and cowriter Eugene Levy (who gives the film's funniest performance), Guest is so delicate in his satirical approach that the laughs aren't always obvious, and the subtlety can be as wistful (as in Catherine O'Hara's performance as Levy's auto-harpist partner) as it is hilarious. Some may wish for more blatant comedy, but that would compromise the genuine affection that Guest & Co. have for the music they're spoofing. —Jeff Shannon
Die Hard: The Ultimate Collection [6 Discs]
The Adventures of Indiana Jones (Raiders of the Lost Ark/The Temple of Doom/The Last Crusade) - Widescreen
As with Star Wars, the George Lucas-produced Indiana Jones trilogy was not just a plaything for kids but an act of nostalgic affection toward a lost phenomenon: the cliffhanging movie serials of the past. Episodic in structure and with fate hanging in the balance about every 10 minutes, the Jones features tapped into Lucas's extremely profitable Star Wars formula of modernizing the look and feel of an old, but popular, story model. Steven Spielberg directed all three films, which are set in the late 1930s and early '40s: the comic book-like Raiders of the Lost Ark, the spooky, Gunga Din-inspired Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and the cautious but entertaining Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Fans and critics disagree over the order of preference, some even finding the middle movie nearly repugnant in its violence. (Pro-Temple of Doom people, on the other hand, believe that film to be the most disarmingly creative and emotionally effective of the trio.) One thing's for sure: Harrison Ford's swaggering, two-fisted, self-effacing performance worked like a charm, and the art of cracking bullwhips was probably never quite the iconic activity it soon became after Raiders. Supporting players and costars were very much a part of the series, too—Karen Allen, Sean Connery (as Indie's dad), Kate Capshaw, Ke Huy Quan, Amrish Puri, Denholm Elliot, River Phoenix, and John Rhys-Davies among them. Years have passed since the last film (another is supposedly in the works), but emerging film buffs can have the same fun their predecessors did picking out numerous references to Hollywood classics and B-movies of the past. —Tom Keogh
The Lord of the Rings - The Two Towers
The extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring was perhaps the most comprehensive DVD release to date, and its follow-up proves a similarly colossal achievement, with significant extra footage and a multitude of worthwhile bonus features. The extended version of The Two Towers adds 43 minutes to the theatrical version's 179-minute running time, and there are valuable additions to the film. Two new scenes might appease those who feel that the characterization of Faramir was the film's most egregious departure from the book, and fans will appreciate an appearance of the Huorns at Helm's Deep plus a nod to the absence of Tom Bombadil. Seeing a little more interplay between the gorgeous Eowyn and Aragorn is welcome, as is a grim introduction to Eomer and Theoden's son. And among the many other additions, there's an extended epilogue that might not have worked in the theater, but is more effective here in setting up The Return of the King. While the 30 minutes added to The Fellowship of the Ring felt just right in enriching the film, the extra footage in The Two Towers at times seems a bit extraneous—we see moments that in the theatrical version we had been told about, and some fleshed-out conversations and incidents are rather minor. But director Peter Jackson's vision of J.R.R. Tolkien's world is so marvelous that it's hard to complain about any extra time we can spend there.

While it may seem that there would be nothing left to say after the bevy of features on the extended Fellowship, the four commentary tracks and two discs of supplements on The Two Towers remain informative, fascinating, and funny, far surpassing the recycled materials on the two-disc theatrical version. Highlights of the 6.5 hours' worth of documentaries offer insight on the stunts, the design work, the locations, and the creation of Gollum, and—most intriguing for rabid fans—the film's writers (including Jackson) discuss why they created events that weren't in the book. Providing variety are animatics, rough footage, countless sketches, and a sound-mixing demonstration. Again, the most interesting commentary tracks are by Jackson and writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens and by 16 members of the cast (eight of whom didn't appear in the first film, and even including John Noble, whose Denethor character only appears in this extended cut). The first two installments of Peter Jackson's trilogy have established themselves as the best fantasy films of all time, and among the best film trilogies of all time, and their extended-edition DVD sets have set a new standard for expanding on the already-epic films and providing comprehensive bonus features. —David Horiuchi
Space Ghost Coast to Coast - Volume One
What would Late Night be like if David Letterman was replaced by a superhero? That's the question posited by the Cartoon Network's original series Space Ghost Coast to Coast, and the answer is: truly odd and frequently hilarious. The series took '60s-era animated crime fighter Space Ghost and reinvented him as the slightly addled host of a celebrity gabfest. SG's awkward chats with guests like David Byrne, Hulk Hogan, and the Ramones were frequently interrupted by his old foes Zorak (now the show's bandleader) and Moltar (director). Deliberately stilted and proudly absurd, the program was a strange but often dead-on parody of hollow celebrity worship, and garnered a loyal cult following. However, those diehard fans may be disappointed by this two-disc set, which features only 16 of the 22 episodes from the first three seasons (a clip from one missing episode, "A Space Ghost Christmas," is included in the supplemental features). Also somewhat of a letdown is the commentary from the show's creative team, which is amusing but rarely informative. —Paul Gaita
Star Trek - The Motion Pictures Collection (10 Films)
Spanning two decades and countless light years of interstellar adventure, Star Trek: The Motion Pictures Collection is a testament to the enduring goodwill of Gene Roddenberry's optimistic sci-fi concept. Long before Star Wars sparked an explosion of big-screen science fiction, Roddenberry had planned a second Star Trek TV series; the project fizzled, but its pilot script evolved into the first film in Paramount's most lucrative movie franchise. Despite its sluggish pace and bland "pajama" costuming, Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979) offered a welcomed reunion of the "Classic Trek" cast, packed with Douglas Trumbull's still-dazzling special effects. Trekkers were even more ecstatic when The Wrath of Khan (1982) revived the spirit of the original series, even though director Nicholas Meyer was a Trek neophyte. With Leonard Nimoy directing, The Search for Spock (1984) began where Khan left off, with a thrilling (albeit contrived) obligation to resurrect the formerly ill-fated Mr. Spock.

A box-office smash, Nimoy's The Voyage Home (1986) is the franchise's most accessible adventure—a high point offset by William Shatner's comparatively dreadful Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989). Meyer (and his penchant for quoting Shakespeare) returned for The Undiscovered Country (1991), a conspiracy thriller that put the series back on track, inspiring fans to invoke the "even number" rule in rating their franchise favorites. Generations (1994) gracefully passed the torch to TV's The Next Generation, bidding farewell to Captain Kirk with honor and integrity intact. Highlighted by the evolving humanity of Brent Spiner's android Lt. Cmdr. Data, First Contact (1996) explored Star Trek history with a logical (hint) surprise encounter, and Insurrection (1998) provided an adequate expansion of the successful NextGen series. Taken as a whole, these ten films demonstrate the consistent vitality of Roddenberry's original vision, stoking any Trekker's appetite for "ongoing missions" in Nemesis and beyond. —Jeff Shannon
Firefly - The Complete Series
As the 2005 theatrical release of Serenity made clear, Firefly was a science fiction concept that deserved a second chance. Devoted fans (or "Browncoats") knew it all along, and with this well-packaged DVD set, those who missed the show's original broadcasts can see what they missed. Creator Joss Whedon's ambitious science-fiction Western (Whedon's third series after Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel) was canceled after only 11 of these 14 episodes had aired on the Fox network, but history has proven that its demise was woefully premature. Whedon's generic hybrid got off to a shaky start when network executives demanded an action-packed one-hour premiere ("The Train Job"); in hindsight the intended two-hour pilot (also titled "Serenity," and oddly enough, the final episode aired) provides a better introduction to the show's concept and splendid ensemble cast. Obsessive fans can debate the quirky logic of combining spaceships with direct parallels to frontier America (it's 500 years in the future, and embattled humankind has expanded into the galaxy, where undeveloped "outer rim" planets struggle with the equivalent of Old West accommodations), but Whedon and his gifted co-writers and directors make it work, at least well enough to fashion a credible context from the incongruous culture-clashing of past, present, and future technologies, along with a polyglot language (the result of two dominant superpowers) that combines English with an abundance of Chinese slang.

What makes it work is Whedon's delightfully well-chosen cast and their nine well-developed characters—a typically Whedon-esque extended family—each providing a unique perspective on their adventures aboard Serenity, the junky but beloved "Firefly-class" starship they call home. As a veteran of the disadvantaged Independent faction's war against the all-powerful planetary Alliance (think of it as Underdogs vs. Overlords), Serenity captain Malcolm Reynolds (Nathan Fillion) leads his compact crew on a quest for survival. They're renegades with an amoral agenda, taking any job that pays well, but Firefly's complex tapestry of right and wrong (and peace vs. violence) is richer and deeper than it first appears. Tantalizing clues about Blue Sun (an insidious mega-corporation with a mysteriously evil agenda), its ties to the Alliance, and the traumatizing use of Serenity's resident stowaway (Summer Glau) as a guinea pig in the development of advanced warfare were clear indications Firefly was heading for exciting revelations that were precluded by the series' cancellation. Fortunately, the big-screen Serenity (which can be enjoyed independently of the series) ensured that Whedon's wild extraterrestrial west had not seen its final sunset. Its very existence confirms that these 14 episodes (and enjoyable bonus features) will endure as irrefutable proof Fox made a glaring mistake in canceling the series. —Jeff Shannon
Once Upon a Time in Mexico
Guns, guns, guns! And a few explosions as bodies fly through the air and crash into tables and fruit stands. Once Upon a Time in Mexico, like all Robert Rodriguez movies, is all about the kinetic kick of high-velocity action. Johnny Depp, blase and whimsical, plays a CIA agent who's drawn guitar-playing gun-slinger Antonio Banderas (long black hair flopping over his face like the ears of a Labrador puppy) into a ridiculously convoluted plot to overthrow the Mexican government. Along for the ride are a craggy-faced rogue's gallery including Willem Dafoe, Mickey Rourke, Danny Trejo, Ruben Blades, and (to balance things out) the smooth, tantalizing complexions of Eva Mendes and Salma Hayek. For sheer trashy fun, Once Upon a Time in Mexico is a step down from its predecessor, Desperado—but Desperado set the bar pretty high. For coherent storytelling, look elsewhere, but for action razzle-dazzle, this is your movie. —Bret Fetzer
Red Dwarf - Series 3
The third series of Red Dwarf introduced some radical changes—all of them for the better—but the scripts remained as sharp and character-focused as ever, making this a fine candidate for the show's best year. Gone were the dull metallic grey sets and costumes, gone too was Norman Lovett's lugubrious Holly, replaced now by comedienne Hattie Hayridge, who had previously played Hilly in the Series 2 episode "Parallel Universe". New this year were custom-made costumes, more elaborate sets, the zippy pea-green Starbug, bigger special effects and the wholly admirable Robert Llewellyn as Kryten.

The benefits of the show's changes are apparent from the outset, with the mind-bending hilarity of "Backwards," in which Kryten and Rimmer establish themselves as a forward-talking double-act on a reverse Earth. After a modest two-person episode that sees Rimmer and Lister "Marooned", comes one of the Dwarf's most beloved episodes, "Polymorph." Here is the ensemble working at its best, as each character unwittingly has their strongest emotion sucked out of them. Lister loses his fear, Cat his vanity, Kryten his reserve, and Rimmer his anger ("Chameleonic Life-Forms. No Thanks"). "Body Swap" sees Lister and Rimmer involved in a bizarre attempt to prevent the ship from self-destructing. "Timeslides" delves deep into Rimmer's psyche as the boys journey haphazardly through history. Finally, "The Last Day" shows how completely Kryten has been adopted as a crewmember, when his replacement Hudzen unexpectedly shows up. —Mark Walker
Red Dwarf - Series 4
Boldly going where no one in their right mind would ever go, this hilarious, cult Sci Fi spoof takes you on a joyride three million years into the future. Those ubiquitous anti-heroes of space travel - Lister, Rimmer, Cat and Kryten - are following up their spectacularly successful series I & II DVD's. In series IV, Ace Rimmer arrives from an alternate dimension, Kryten falls in love and Lister's curry tries to kill him in six more slices of classic Red Dwarf chaos.
Futurama, Vol. 3
Good news, everyone, the third DVD volume of Futurama is just as funny as ever—irreverent, boundlessly inventive, warmhearted, and chock-full of in-jokes, sight gags, and fleeting references to all manner of pop-culture icons and obscure genre classics. In fact, if the show has a problem, it's that it's all so lovingly crafted that scarcely a frame goes by without something both funny and clever going on: when a horse wins a race by a quantum fraction, Prof. Farnsworth fulminates, "You changed the result by observing it!" Recurring minor characters (Elzar the chef, the robot mafia, the mutants in the sewers) pop up unexpectedly throughout, providing another wink to dedicated fans; like Red Dwarf, this is a show that loves the genre it sets out to spoof. Shame, then, that the show has had a troubled broadcast history and never quite found the mainstream appeal of its stablemate The Simpsons.

Fry and the Planet Express team find themselves stranded on a planet of unfeasibly large women ("Amazon Women in the Mood"), standing in for psychotic Robo-Santa ("A Tale of Two Santas", with John Goodman reprising his evil robot), and variously falling in love with each other and sundry other humans, aliens, man-bots, fem-bots, virtual reality constructs, and even the Planet Express ship itself.

Futurama, Vol. 3 comprises 22 episodes on four discs. As with previous DVD sets, the animated menus are a treat, and there's a selection of bonus features including deleted scenes, storyboards, commentaries on every episode, animatics, "How to draw" tips, and more. Sheer heaven. —Mark Walker
Swordfish
Swordfish is a superficial movie, so let's address the superficial facts: Halle Berry was well paid to bare her breasts in this gratuitous cyber-action thriller, and while Berry's many fans will enjoy a cheap drool at the actress's expense, her brief topless scene doesn't justify this insipid parade of glossy violence from the director of 2000's Gone in 60 Seconds. Add yet another notch in John Travolta's bad-movie belt, and you've got Hollywood bankruptcy in full blossom. Go ahead, marvel at director Dominic Sena's biggest money shot—a 360-degree pan as a robbery hostage is blown to bits by a bomb that pelts a surrounding SWAT squad with deadly ball bearings.

The plot, as if it matters: Travolta's a slick, self-appointed antiterrorist who recruits a top-flight computer hacker (Hugh Jackman) to transfer a $9.5 billion government slush fund into a cluster of secret accounts. Berry's the curvaceous bait who lures Jackman into the scheme; Don Cheadle's an FBI agent hot on their tails; and an obligatory subplot turns Jackman's daughter (Camryn Grimes) into an innocent bargaining chip. By the time a hostage transport bus is airlifted in the film's not-so-thrilling climax, Swordfish will hold your passive attention or put you to sleep—it all depends on your tolerance for Sena's brand of derivative bloodlust. It's pornography of a sort, and efficiently mechanical, but you can bet good money that Berry and her costars didn't cash their paychecks proudly. —Jeff Shannon
Kill Bill, Volume 2
"The Bride" (Uma Thurman) gets her satisfaction—and so do we—in Quentin Tarantino's "roaring rampage of revenge,"Kill Bill, Vol. 2. Where Vol. 1 was a hyper-kinetic tribute to the Asian chop-socky grindhouse flicks that have been thoroughly cross-referenced in Tarantino's film-loving brain, Vol. 2—not a sequel, but Part Two of a breathtakingly cinematic epic—is Tarantino's contemporary martial-arts Western, fueled by iconic images, music, and themes lifted from any source that Tarantino holds dear, from the action-packed cheapies of William Witney (one of several filmmakers Tarantino gratefully honors in the closing credits) to the spaghetti epics of Sergio Leone. Tarantino doesn't copy so much as elevate the genres he loves, and the entirety of Kill Bill is clearly the product of a singular artistic vision, even as it careens from one influence to another. Violence erupts with dynamic impact, but unlike Vol. 1, this slower grand finale revels in Tarantino's trademark dialogue and loopy longueurs, reviving the career of David Carradine (who plays Bill for what he is: a snake charmer), and giving Thurman's Bride an outlet for maternal love and well-earned happiness. Has any actress endured so much for the sake of a unique collaboration? As the credits remind us, "The Bride" was jointly created by "Q&U," and she's become an unforgettable heroine in a pair of delirious movie-movies (Vol. 3 awaits, some 15 years hence) that Tarantino fans will study and love for decades to come. —Jeff Shannon
Futurama, Vol. 4
No more good news, everyone—this fourth volume of Futurama is the show's last. By turns frenetic and far-sighted, Matt Groening's futuristic comedy provided belly-laughs for self-confessed sci-fi nerds, but somehow failed to connect with a broader audience, even though it was often funnier and sharper than stablemate The Simpsons. So now bid farewell to the Planet Express team—Fry, Leela, Zoidberg, Bender, Amy, Hermes, Prof Farnsworth—as well as to kindly Kif, cloned Cubert, megalomaniac Mom, mutants in the sewer, the cast of robo-sitcom All My Circuits, swashbuckling space lothario and William Shatner wannabe Zapp Brannigan, Elzar the four-armed chef, and all the other characters that made Futurama such a unique experience.

This fourth and final year has all the elements that fans enjoyed so much—but also those elements that partially explain its cancellation. Recurring characters are great if you've watched the show before, as are the in-jokes; and the many parodies of classic science fiction are fine for the initiated, but risk leaving other viewers out in the cold. The show's strengths and perceived weaknesses are exemplified in the episode "Where No Fan Has Gone Before," in which the original cast of Star Trek play themselves: hilarious for Trekkers, but not really for anyone else. Elsewhere we find Leela discovering her real parents aren't aliens at all but in fact live in the sewers; Kif getting pregnant; Fry discovering the fossilized remains of his faithful pet dog; and Bender being converted to steam power. Despite some ups and downs, it's still the funniest animated TV show. Multifarious DVD extras include cast and crew commentaries, deleted scenes, animatics, galleries and Easter eggs. —Mark Walker
Slacker - Criterion Collection
Richard Linklater's debut feature is a comic kaleidoscopic portrait of the quirky characters stuck in a college town (it's Austin, Texas, but it could stand for hundreds of such places), a devilishly clever and endlessly inventive film that overcomes its nothing budget with scene after hilarious scene of short, sharp cinematic shots. Structured something like Luis Buñuel's The Phantom of Liberty, Slacker is a comic series of character pieces, each lasting a few minutes before the camera picks up and follows someone, perhaps simply an extra in the scene, to the next conversation. Characters spout off theories on everything from JFK and Charles Whitman (we even get an eerie glimpse of the water tower he climbed for his killing spree) to Elvis and UFOs, and more (wanna buy a Madonna pap smear?) on our bohemian tour of a condensed day-in-the-life. Linklater lets the characters set the pace but provides a loose, almost imperceptible rhythm to the film as a whole, giving a kind of structure to what seems like a series of improvisations. But the heart of the film is the freewheeling array of obsessed, self-absorbed, or simply lost souls wandering streets and coffee shops ready to talk your ear off about absolutely nothing. Killing time has never been more fun. —Sean Axmaker
Star Wars Trilogy (Widescreen Edition with Bonus Disc)
Was George Lucas's Star Wars Trilogy, the most anticipated DVD release ever, worth the wait? You bet. It's a must-have for any home theater, looking great, sounding great, and supplemented by generous bonus features.

The Movies

The Star Wars Trilogy had the rare distinction of becoming a cultural phenomenon, a defining event for its generation. On its surface, George Lucas's story is a rollicking and humorous space fantasy that owes debts to more influences than one can count on two hands, but filmgoers became entranced by its basic struggle of good vs. evil "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away," its dazzling special effects, and a mythology of Jedi knights, the Force, and droids. Over the course of three films—A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Return of the Jedi (1983)—Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher), and the roguish Han Solo (Harrison Ford) join the Rebel alliance in a galactic war against the Empire, the menacing Darth Vader (David Prowse, voiced by James Earl Jones), and eventually the all-powerful Emperor (Ian McDiarmid). Empire is generally considered the best of the films and Jedi the most uneven, but all three are vastly superior to the more technologically impressive prequels that followed, Episode I, The Phantom Menace (1999) and Episode II, Attack of the Clones (2002).

How Are the Picture and Sound?

Thanks to a new digital transfer, you've never seen C-3PO glow so golden, and Darth Vader's helmet is as black as the Dark Side.

In a word, spectacular. Thanks to a new digital transfer, you've never seen C-3PO glow so golden, and Darth Vader's helmet is as black as the Dark Side. And at the climactic scene of A New Hope, see if the Dolby 5.1 EX sound doesn't knock you back in your chair. Other audio options are Dolby 2.0 Surround in English, Spanish, and French. (Sorry, DTS fans, but previous Star Wars DVDs didn't have DTS either.) There have been a few quibbles with the audio on A New Hope, however. A few seconds of Peter Cushing's dialogue ("Then name the system!") are distorted, and the music (but not the sound effects) is reversed in the rear channels. For example, in the final scene, the brass is in the front right channel but the back left channel (from the viewer's perspective), and the strings are in the left front and back right. The result feels like the instruments are crossing through the viewer.

What's Been Changed?
The rumors are true: Lucas made more changes to the films for their DVD debut. Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker) has been added to a scene in Jedi, Ian McDiarmid (the Emperor) replaces Clive Revill with slightly revised lines in Empire, Temuera Morrison has rerecorded Boba Fett's minimal dialogue, and some other small details have been altered. Yes, these changes mean that the Star Wars films are no longer the ones you saw 20 years ago, but these brief changes hardly affect the films, and they do make sense in the overall continuity of the two trilogies. It's not like a digitized Ewan McGregor has replaced Alec Guiness's scenes, and the infamous changes made for the 1997 special-edition versions were much more intrusive (of course, those are in the DVD versions as well).

How Are the Bonus Features?

Toplining is Empire of Dreams: The Story of the Star Wars Trilogy, a 150-minute documentary incorporating not only the usual making-of nuts and bolts but also the political workings of the movie studios and the difficulties Lucas had getting his vision to the screen (for example, after resigning from the Directors' Guild, he lost his first choice for director of Jedi: Steven Spielberg). It's a little adulatory, but it has plenty to interest any fan. The three substantial featurettes are "The Characters of Star Wars" (19 min.), which discusses the development of the characters we all know and love, "The Birth of the Lightsaber" (15 min.), about the creation and evolution of a Jedi's ultimate weapon, and "The Force Is with Them: The Legacy of Star Wars" (15 min.), in which filmmakers such as Peter Jackson, Ridley Scott, and James Cameron talk about how they and the industry were affected by the films and Lucas's technological developments in visual effects, sound, and computer animation.

The bonus features are excellent and along the same lines as those created for The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. Each film has a commentary track, recorded by Lucas, Ben Burtt (sound design), Dennis Muren (visual effects), and Carrie Fisher, with Irvin Kershner joining in on the film he directed, The Empire Strikes Back. Recorded separately and skillfully edited together (with supertitles to identify who is speaking), the tracks lack the energy of group commentaries, but they're enjoyable and informative, with a nice mix of overall vision (Lucas), technical details (Burtt, Muren, Kershner), and actor's perspective (Fisher). Interestingly, they discuss some of the 1997 changes (Mos Eisley creatures, the new Jabba the Hutt scene) but not those made for the DVDs.

There's also a sampler of the Xbox game Star Wars: Battlefront, which lets the player reenact classic film scenarios (blast Ewoks in the battle of Endor!); trailers and TV spots from the films' many releases; and a nine-minute preview of the last film in the series, Episode III, Revenge of the Sith (here identified by an earlier working title, The Return of Darth Vader). Small extra touches include anamorphic widescreen motion menus with dialogue, original poster artwork on the discs, and a whopping 50 chapter stops for each film.

"The Force Is Strong with This One"
The Star Wars Trilogy is an outstanding DVD set that lives up to the anticipation. There will always be resentment that the original versions of the films are not available as well, but George Lucas maintains that these are the versions he always wanted to make. If fans are able to put this debate aside, they can enjoy the adventures of Luke, Leia, and Han for years to come. —David Horiuchi
The Thing
Director John Carpenter and special makeup effects master Rob Bottin teamed up for this 1982 remake of the 1951 science fiction classic The Thing from Another World, and the result is a mixed blessing. It's got moments of highly effective terror and spine-tingling suspense, but it's mostly a showcase for some of the goriest and most horrifically grotesque makeup effects ever created for a movie. With such highlights as a dog that splits open and blossoms into something indescribably gruesome, this is the kind of movie for die-hard horror fans and anyone who slows down to stare at fatal traffic accidents. On those terms, however, it's hard not to be impressed by the movie's wild and wacky freak show. It all begins when scientists at an arctic research station discover an alien spacecraft under the thick ice, and thaw out the alien body found aboard. What they don't know is that the alien can assume any human form, and before long the scientists can't tell who's real and who's a deadly alien threat. Kurt Russell leads the battle against the terrifying intruder, and the supporting cast includes Richard Masur, Richard Dysart, Donald Moffat, and Wilford Brimley. They're all playing standard characters who are neglected by the mechanistic screenplay (based on the classic sci-fi story "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell), but Carpenter's emphasis is clearly on the gross-out effects and escalating tension. If you've got the stomach for it (and let's face it, there's a big audience for eerie gore), this is a thrill ride you won't want to miss. —Jeff Shannon
Director's Label Series Boxed Set - The Works of Spike Jonze, Chris Cunningham, and Michel Gondry
The Work of Director Spike Jonze

When you experience The Work of Director Spike Jonze, you enter a world where anything can happen and frequently does. From the innovative director of Being John Malkovich and Adaptation., this superior compilation of music videos, documentaries, interviews, and early rarities offers abundant proof that Jonze is the real deal—a filmmaker ablaze with fresh ideas and fresh ways of filming them. While collectors will regret that only 16 of Jonze's 40+ music videos are included here, this glorious sampling represents the cream of Jonze's bumper crop, and for sheer ingenuity, it doesn't get any better than this. From the Beastie Boys' popular TV cop-spoof "Sabotage" to the intensely disciplined backwards-filming technique of the Pharcyde's "Drop," it's clear that Jonze has an affinity for inventive street theater, culminating in the sad/happy vibe of Fatli! p's introspective "What's Up Fatlip?" and the pop-jazz effervescence of Bjork's "It's Oh So Quiet." Technical wizardry is also a Jonze trademark, especially in the elaborate "Happy Days" nostalgia of Weezer's "Buddy Holly" and the graceful fly-wire dancing of Christopher Walken to Fatboy Slim's pulsing "Weapon of Choice." No doubt about it: Every one of these videos is an award-worthy testament to Jonze's ability to combine hard work with fun-loving spontaneity. Accompanied by an informative 52-page booklet, this two-sided DVD also explores Jonze's artistic evolution with an entertaining selection of video rarities and three half-hour documentaries, the best being a revealing and very funny interview with rapper Fatlip after his dismissal from the Pharcyde. Commentaries for the music videos are consistently worthwhile, supporting Jonze's own belief that his best videos were made for artists whose work he genuinely enjoyed. Lucky for us, his pleasure is infectious.

The Work of Director Chris Cunningham
Like the other volumes in the acclaimed Director's Series, The Work of Director Chris Cunningham offers a feast of visual ingenuity, with one major difference: Unlike the relatively playful brightness of Jonze and Gondry, Cunningham wants to involve you in his nightmares. From the urban monstrosities of Aphex Twin's "Come to Daddy" to the limb-shattering weirdness of Leftfield's "Afrika Shox," Cunningham's music videos emphasize the freakish and the bizarre, but they are also arrestingly beautiful and otherworldly, as in the aquatic effects used for Portishead's "Only You," combining underwater movements with ominous urban landscapes. Some of Cunningham's shock effects are horrifically effective (his 'flex" video installation, excerpted here with music by Aphex Twin, is as disturbing as anything conjured by David Cronenberg), while others are cathartic or, in the case of Aphex Twin's "Windowlicker," outrageously amusing. And while the eerie elegance of Madonna's "Frozen" arose from a chaotic production, the signature work in this collection is clearly Björk's "All Is Full of Love," a masterfully simple yet breathtaking vision of intimacy involving advanced robotics and seamless CGI composites. In these and other videos, Cunningham advances a unique aesthetic, infusing each video and commercial he makes with a dark, occasionally gothic sensibility. That these frequently nightmarish visions are also infectiously hypnotic is a tribute to Cunningham's striking originality.

The Work of Director Michel Gondry
The Work of Director Michel Gondry invites the lucky viewer into a wonderland of childlike imagination. Before the Versailles-born Gondry turned his creative ingenuity to feature films (beginning with the underrated Human Nature and the 2004 Jim Carrey comedy Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), these 27 music videos and assorted "stories and things" formed a legacy of supreme cleverness, suggesting a creative lineage from the pioneering film magic of Georges Méliès to the groundbreaking experimental films of Norman McLaren. It's perfectly fitting that the accompanying 75-minute documentary is titled "I've Been 12 Forever," because Gondry (b. 1964) never lost the sense of wonder and inventiveness that children display when their minds are allowed to flourish in a creative environment. No wonder he's best known for his dazzling collaborations with Icelandic pop star Björk, resulting in music videos (seven included here) that redefined the magical potential of the medium. Each, in its own way, is a masterpiece of the fantastic. What's also remarkable about Gondry's work is its technical progression, from the homemade crudeness of his earliest videos for the French band Oui Oui, to the technical wizardry of Kylie Minogue's "Come Into My World," in which the Australian pop star is seamlessly multiplied as she strolls around a busy Parisian intersection; like many of Gondry's videos, it's a stunning "how-did-they-do-that?" work of art, reminiscent of Zbigniew Rybcynski's prize-winning 1982 short "Tango." From the hilarious dreamworld of the Foo Fighters' most popular video "Everlong" to the painstaking pixilation of Gondry's videos for the White Stripes (one made entirely of animated Lego blocks), this DVD is packed with Gondry's tireless pursuit of perfection; he'll do whatever's necessary, no matter how simple or complex, to achieve perfect harmony between song, artist, and visual concept. All the while, he's drawing from a seemingly endless well of inspiration, as evident in the delightful 52-page booklet of stories, drawings, photos, and interviews that chronicle the eternal sunshine of a brilliant mind. —Jeff Shannon
Space Ghost Coast to Coast - Volume Two
The Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King
The greatest trilogy in film history, presented in the most ambitious sets in DVD history, comes to a grand conclusion with the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. Not only is the third and final installment of Peter Jackson's adaptation of the works of J.R.R. Tolkien the longest of the three, but a full 50 minutes of new material pushes the running time to a whopping 4 hours and 10 minutes. The new scenes are welcome, and the bonus features maintain the high bar set by the first two films, The Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers.

What's New?

One of the scenes cut from the theatrical release but included here, the resolution of the Saruman storyline, generated a lot of publicity when the movie opened, as actor Christopher Lee complained in the press about losing his only appearance. It's an excellent scene, one Jackson calls "pure Tolkien," and provides better context for Pippin to find the wizard's palantir in the water, but it's not critical to the film. In fact, "valuable but not critical" might sum up the ROTK extended edition. It's evident that Jackson made the right cuts for the theatrical run, but the extra material provides depth and ties up a number of loose ends, and for those sorry to see the trilogy end (and who isn't?) it's a welcome chance to spend another hour in Middle-earth. Some choice moments are Gandalf's (Ian McKellen) confrontation with the Witch King (we find out what happened to the wizard's staff), the chilling Mouth of Sauron at the gates of Mordor, and Frodo (Elijah Wood) and Sam (Sean Astin) being mistaken for Orc soldiers. We get to see more of Éowyn (Miranda Otto), both with Aragorn and on the battlefield, even fighting the hideously deformed Orc lieutenant, Gothmog. We also see her in one of the most anticipated new scenes, the Houses of Healing after the battle of the Pelennor Fields. It doesn't present Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) as a savior as the book did, but it shows the initial meeting between Éowyn and Faramir (David Wenham), a relationship that received only a meaningful glance in the theatrical cut.

If you want to completely immerse yourself in Peter Jackson's marvelous and massive achievement, only the extended edition will do.

And for those who complained, no, there are no new endings, not even the scouring of the Shire, which many fans were hoping to see. Nor is there a scene of Denethor (John Noble) with the palantir, which would have better explained both his foresight and his madness. As Jackson notes, when cuts are made, the secondary characters are the first to go, so there is a new scene of Aragorn finding the palantir in Denethor's robes. Another big difference is Aragorn's confrontation with the King of the Dead. In the theatrical version, we didn't know whether the King had accepted Aragorn's offer when the pirate ships pulled into the harbor; here Jackson assumes that viewers have already experienced that tension, and instead has the army of the dead join the battle in an earlier scene (an extended cameo for Jackson). One can debate which is more effective, but that's why the film is available in both versions. If you feel like watching the relatively shorter version you saw in the theaters, you can. If you want to completely immerse yourself in Peter Jackson's marvelous and massive achievement, only the extended edition will do.

How Are the Bonus Features?

To complete the experience, The Return of the King provides the same sprawling set of features as the previous extended editions: four commentary tracks, sharp picture and thrilling sound, and two discs of excellent documentary material far superior to the recycled material in the theatrical edition. Those who have listened to the seven hours of commentary for the first two extended editions may wonder if they need to hear more, but there was no commentary for the earlier ROTK DVD, so it's still entertaining to hear Jackson break down the film (he says the beacon scene is one of his favorites), discuss differences from the book, point out cameos, and poke fun at himself and the extended-edition concept ("So this is the complete full strangulation, never seen before, here exclusively on DVD!"). The documentaries (some lasting 30 minutes or longer) are of their usual outstanding quality, and there's a riveting storyboard/animatic sequence of the climactic scene, which includes a one-on-one battle between Aragorn and Sauron.

One DVD Set to Rule Them All
Peter Jackson's trilogy has set the standard for fantasy films by adapting the Holy Grail of fantasy stories with a combination of fidelity to the original source and his own vision, supplemented by outstanding writing, near-perfect casting, glorious special effects, and evocative New Zealand locales. The extended editions without exception have set the standard for the DVD medium by providing a richer film experience that pulls the three films together and further embraces Tolkien's world, a reference-quality home theater experience, and generous, intelligent, and engrossing bonus features. —David Horiuchi
Shaun of the Dead
British horror/comedy Shaun of the Dead is a scream in all senses of the word. Brain-hungry zombies shamble through the streets of London, but all unambitious electronics salesman Shaun (Simon Pegg) cares about is his girlfriend Liz (Kate Ashfield), who just dumped him. With the help of his slacker roommate Ed (Nick Frost), Shaun fights his way across town to rescue Liz, but the petty concerns of life keep getting in the way: When they're trying to use vinyl records to decapitate a pair of zombies, Shaun and Ed bicker about which bands deserve preservation—New Order they keep, but Sade becomes a lethal frisbee. Many zombie movies are comedies by accident, but Shaun of the Dead is deliberately and brilliantly funny, while still delivering a few delicious jolts of fear. Also featuring the stealthy comic presence of Bill Nighy (Love Actually) and some familar faces from The Office. —Bret Fetzer
Star Trek Voyager - The Complete Seasons 1-7
No Description Available.

Genre: Television

Rating: NR

Release Date: 15-JAN-2008

Media Type: DVD
Resident Evil - Apocalypse
2002's popular video-game-derived hit Resident Evil didn't inspire confidence in a sequel, but Resident Evil: Apocalypse defies odds and surpasses expectations. It's a bigger, better, action-packed zombie thriller, and this time Milla Jovovich (as the first film's no-nonsense heroine) is joined by more characters from the popular Capcom video games, including Jill Valentine (played by British hottie Sienna Guillory) and Carlos Olivera (Oded Fehr, from 1999's The Mummy). They're armed and ready for a high-caliber encounter with devil dogs, mutant "Lickers," lurching zombies, and the leather-clad monster known only as Nemesis, unleashed by the nefarious Umbrella Corporation responsible for creating the cannibalistic undead horde. Having gained valuable experience as a respected second-unit director on high-profile films like Gladiator and The Bourne Identity, director Alexander Witt elevates this junky material to the level of slick, schlocky entertainment. —Jeff Shannon
Employee Of the Month
The Incredibles
After creating the last great traditionally animated film of the 20th century, The Iron Giant, filmmaker Brad Bird joined top-drawer studio Pixar to create this exciting, completely entertaining computer-animated film. Bird gives us a family of "supers," a brood of five with special powers desperately trying to fit in with the 9-to-5 suburban lifestyle. Of course, in a more innocent world, Bob and Helen Parr were superheroes, Mr. Incredible and Elastigirl. But blasted lawsuits and public disapproval forced them and other supers to go incognito, making it even tougher for their school-age kids, the shy Violet and the aptly named Dash. When a stranger named Mirage (voiced by Elizabeth Pena) secretly recruits Bob for a potential mission, the old glory days spin in his head, even if his body is a bit too plump for his old super suit.

Bird has his cake and eats it, too. He and the Pixar wizards send up superhero and James Bond movies while delivering a thrilling, supercool action movie that rivals Spider-Man 2 for 2004's best onscreen thrills. While it's just as funny as the previous Pixar films, The Incredibles has a far wider-ranging emotional palette (it's Pixar's first PG film). Bird takes several jabs, including some juicy commentary on domestic life ("It's not graduation, he's moving from the fourth to fifth grade!").

The animated Parrs look and act a bit like the actors portraying them, Craig T. Nelson and Holly Hunter. Samuel L. Jackson and Jason Lee also have a grand old time as, respectively, superhero Frozone and bad guy Syndrome. Nearly stealing the show is Bird himself, voicing the eccentric designer of superhero outfits ("No capes!"), Edna Mode.

Nominated for four Oscars, The Incredibles won for Best Animated Film and, in an unprecedented win for non-live-action films, Sound Editing.

The Presentation
This two-disc set is (shall we say it?), incredible. The digital-to-digital transfer pops off the screen and the 5.1 Dolby sound will knock the socks off most systems. But like any superhero, it has an Achilles heel. This marks the first Pixar release that doesn't include both the widescreen and full-screen versions in the same DVD set, which was a great bargaining chip for those cinephiles who still want a full-frame presentation for other family members. With a 2.39:1 widescreen ratio (that's big black bars, folks, à la Dr. Zhivago), a few more viewers may decide to go with the full-frame presentation. Fortunately, Pixar reformats their full-frame presentation so the action remains in frame.

The Extras
The most-repeated segments will be the two animated shorts. Newly created for this DVD is the hilarious "Jack-Jack Attack," filling the gap in the film during which the Parr baby is left with the talkative babysitter, Kari. "Boundin'," which played in front of the film theatrically, was created by Pixar character designer Bud Luckey. This easygoing take on a dancing sheep gets better with multiple viewings (be sure to watch the featurette on the short).

Brad Bird still sounds like a bit of an outsider in his commentary track, recorded before the movie opened. Pixar captain John Lasseter brought him in to shake things up, to make sure the wildly successful studio would not get complacent. And while Bird is certainly likable, he does not exude Lasseter's teddy-bear persona. As one animator states, "He's like strong coffee; I happen to like strong coffee." Besides a resilient stance to be the best, Bird threw in an amazing number of challenges, most of which go unnoticed unless you delve into the 70 minutes of making-of features plus two commentary tracks (Bird with producer John Walker, the other from a dozen animators). We hear about the numerous sets, why you go to "the Spaniards" if you're dealing with animation physics, costume problems (there's a reason why previous Pixar films dealt with single- or uncostumed characters), and horror stories about all that animated hair. Bird's commentary throws out too many names of the animators even after he warns himself not to do so, but it's a lively enough time. The animator commentary is of greatest interest to those interested in the occupation.

There is a 30-minute segment on deleted scenes with temporary vocals and crude drawings, including a new opening (thankfully dropped). The "secret files" contain a "lost" animated short from the superheroes' glory days. This fake cartoon (Frozone and Mr. Incredible are teamed with a pink bunny) wears thin, but play it with the commentary track by the two superheroes and it's another sharp comedy sketch. There are also NSA "files" on the other superheroes alluded to in the film with dossiers and curiously fun sound bits. "Vowellet" is the only footage about the well-known cast (there aren't even any obligatory shots of the cast recording their lines). Author/cast member Sarah Vowell (NPR's This American Life) talks about her first foray into movie voice-overs—daughter Violet—and the unlikelihood of her being a superhero. The feature is unlike anything we've seen on a Disney or Pixar DVD extra, but who else would consider Abe Lincoln an action figure? —Doug Thomas

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The Incredibles Toy Store

CD Soundtrack

The Art of The Incredibles Book

Game Boy Advance

On VHS

The Essential Guide Book

The Pixar Feature Films Toy Story, 1995A Bug's Life, 1998Toy Story 2, 1999Monsters, Inc., 2001Finding Nemo, 2003The Incredibles, 2004

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The Iron Giant (Writer/Director)

"Family Dog" on Amazing Stories (Writer/Director)

Batteries Not Included (Cowriter)

The Simpsons (Director/Consultant)

King of the Hill (Consultant)

The Critic (Consultant)
Red Dwarf - Series 5
It's brown alert time all over again for Red Dwarf fans with the fifth season of the much-loved U.K. sci-fi/comedy series. Episode-wise, it's business as usual for the crew of the Red Dwarf—that is, if one considers encountering an alien squid that squirts a despair-inducing hallucinogen ("Back to Reality," later voted the best episode of the series by British viewers—and Stephen Hawking!), evil (and not particularly bright) versions of the crew ("Demons and Angels"), a virus that causes insanity ("Quarantine"), and a trip to a moon created entirely from the mind of the insufferable hologram Rimmer ("Terrorform") business as usual. In short, it's six hilarious episodes, highlighted by the typically terrific writing of creators Rob Grant and Doug Naylor (who also direct two episodes). As with the previous deluxe DVD releases, Series V features a wealth of supplemental features, the most intriguing of which is a look at the failed attempt to recreate the show in America (with U.K. cast member Robert Llewellyn and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine's Terry Farrell as Cat). Also included are cast and fan commentaries, featurettes on the show's "science" and villains, special effects tests, blooper reels, and a sampling of Grant and Naylor's BBC 4 radio sketch "Dave Hollins, Space Cadet," which served as the inspiration for Red Dwarf. Dedicated DVD owners will also be rewarded by Easter eggs lurking throughout the menus. —Paul Gaita
Red Dwarf - Series 6
Series 6 is possibly the most eagerly awaited of the Red Dwarf DVD sets, due to its acclaimed third episode, "Gunmen of the Apocalypse," which earned the program an International Emmy Award in 1994. However, the five other episodes in the series have their own share of absurd laughs, and the two-disc set features enough supplemental features to keep even the most demanding RD fan happy. The crux of series 6 is that the Red Dwarf has been stolen (no thanks to Lister, who can't remember where he left it), and the crew must recover it; their pursuit brings them in contact with brain-consuming aliens ("Psirens," with guest star Jenny Agutter), a polymorph that turns Rimmer and Cat into their alternate identities from Series V ("Emohawk—Polymorph II"), the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse tricked out as gunslingers ("Gunmen of the Apocalypse"), an army of Rimmer clones ("Rimmerworld"), and finally, their own future selves, who turn out to be particularly awful (worse than the present-day ones, that is), and cause a cliffhanger ending that just might spell the end for the Red Dwarf crew.... In short, series 6 more than earns its popular status among Red Dwarf's fanbase, thanks to its sharp writing (sadly, it would be the last series to feature scripts by co-creator Rob Grant) and energetic performances. And the double-disc set matches the quality of the programs with some terrific extras, including commentaries by the RD crew and fans (the latter on "Gunmen of the Apocalypse" only), and featurettes on composer Howard Goodall and series director Andy de Emmony; these are rounded out by the usual collections of "smeg-ups" (bloopers), deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, and another episode of the "Dave Hollins, Space Cadet" radio sketch that inspired the show. And again, the most patient of viewers will find Easter eggs on the menus (happy hunting). —Paul Gaita
Star Wars - Episode I, The Phantom Menace
"I have a bad feeling about this," says the young Obi-Wan Kenobi (played by Ewan McGregor) in Star Wars: Episode I, The Phantom Menace as he steps off a spaceship and into the most anticipated cinematic event... well, ever. He might as well be speaking for the legions of fans of the original episodes in the Star Wars saga who can't help but secretly ask themselves: Sure, this is Star Wars, but is it my Star Wars? The original elevated moviegoers' expectations so high that it would have been impossible for any subsequent film to meet them. And as with all the Star Wars movies, The Phantom Menace features inexplicable plot twists, a fistful of loose threads, and some cheek-chewing dialogue. Han Solo's swagger is sorely missed, as is the pervading menace of heavy-breather Darth Vader. There is still way too much quasi-mystical mumbo jumbo, and some of what was fresh about Star Wars 22 years earlier feels formulaic. Yet there's much to admire. The special effects are stupendous; three worlds are populated with a mélange of creatures, flora, and horizons rendered in absolute detail. The action and battle scenes are breathtaking in their complexity. And one particular sequence of the film—the adrenaline-infused pod race through the Tatooine desert—makes the chariot race in Ben-Hur look like a Sunday stroll through the park.

Among the host of new characters, there are a few familiar walk-ons. We witness the first meeting between R2-D2 and C-3PO, Jabba the Hutt looks younger and slimmer (but not young and slim), and Yoda is as crabby as ever. Natalie Portman's stately Queen Amidala sports hairdos that make Princess Leia look dowdy and wields a mean laser. We never bond with Jedi Knight Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), and Obi-Wan's day is yet to come. Jar Jar Binks, a cross between a Muppet, a frog, and a hippie, provides many of the movie's lighter moments, while Sith Lord Darth Maul is a formidable force. Baby-faced Anakin Skywalker (Jake Lloyd) looks too young and innocent to command the powers of the Force or wield a lightsaber (much less transmute into the future Darth Vader), but his boyish exuberance wins over skeptics.

Near the end of the movie, Palpatine, the new leader of the Republic, may be speaking for fans eagerly awaiting Episode II when he pats young Anakin on the head and says, "We will watch your career with great interest." Indeed! —Tod Nelson
Space Ghost Coast to Coast - Volume Three
Watch Space Ghost's definitive interviews with real celebrities whose expressions reveal everything from awkward puzzlement to an obvious hangover. Brak, Zorak and Moltar are also there to help ease your suffering—and deliciously add to Space Ghost's.
House of Flying Daggers
No one uses color like Chinese director Zhang Yimou—movies like Raise the Red Lantern or Hero, though different in tone and subject matter, are drenched in rich, luscious shades of red, blue, yellow, and green. House of Flying Daggers is no exception; if they weren't choreographed with such vigorous imagination, the spectacular action sequences would seem little more than an excuse for vivid hues rippling across the screen. Government officers Leo and Jin (Asian superstars Andy Lau and Takeshi Kaneshiro) set out to destroy an underground rebellion called the House of Flying Daggers (named for their weapon of choice, a curved blade that swoops through the air like a boomerang). Their only chance to find the rebels is a blind women named Mei (Ziyi Zhang, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon) who has some lethal kung fu moves of her own. In the guise of an aspiring rebel, Jin escorts Mei through gorgeous forests and fields that become bloody battlegrounds as soldiers try to kill them both. While arrows and spears of bamboo fly through the air, Mei, Jin, and Leo turn against each other in surprising ways, driven by passion and honor. Zhang's previous action/art film, Hero, sometimes sacrificed momentum for sheer visual beauty;House of Flying Daggers finds a more muscular balance of aesthetic splendor and dazzling swordplay. —Bret Fetzer
Blade Trilogy - The Ultimate Collection
Team America - World Police
* * * * - An elite U.S. counter-terrorism squad loses a member while decimating half of Paris in the reckless pursuit of Middle Eastern maniacs; a Broadway actor with a traumatic childhood secret is naturally hired to replace him. Oh—and they're all marionettes. South Park maestros Trey Parker and Matt Stone (along with co-writer Pam Brady) came up with this shameless satire of pea-brained Hollywood action flicks and even smaller-minded global politics, so don't expect subtlety or even a hint of good taste. Team America is soon on the trail of North Korea's evil Kim Jong Il, who treats us to a tender song about his loneliness before ensnaring Alec Baldwin and the rest of the oblivious Film Actors Guild (F.A.G. for short) in a plot to blow up every major city on the planet. Just as the mindless squad cheerfully demolishes everything in sight, so do director Parker and company. Throwing punches Left, Right, and in-between, the movie's politics leave no turn un-stoned; there's even time to bludgeon the musical Rent. It's offensive, irresponsible comic anarchy seemingly made by sniggering little boys. Painfully funny sniggering little boys.—Steve Wiecking
Sin City
Brutal and breathtaking, Sin City is Robert Rodriguez's stunningly realized vision of Frank Miller's pulpy comic books. In the first of three separate but loosely related stories, Marv (Mickey Rourke in heavy makeup) tries to track down the killers of a woman who ended up dead in his bed. In the second story, Dwight's (Clive Owen) attempt to defend a woman from a brutal abuser goes horribly wrong, and threatens to destroy the uneasy truce among the police, the mob, and the women of Old Town. Finally, an aging cop on his last day on the job (Bruce Willis) rescues a young girl from a kidnapper, but is himself thrown in jail. Years later, he has a chance to save her again.

Read our interview with Frank Miller.

Based on three of Miller's immensely popular and immensely gritty books (The Hard Goodbye, The Big Fat Kill, and That Yellow Bastard), Sin City is unquestionably the most faithful comic-book-based movie ever made. Each shot looks like a panel from its source material, and director Rodriguez (who refers to it as a "translation" rather than an adaptation) resigned from the Directors Guild so that Miller could share a directing credit. Like the books, it's almost entirely in stark black and white with some occasional bursts of color (a woman's red lips, a villain's yellow face). The backgrounds are entirely digitally generated, yet not self-consciously so, and perfectly capture Miller's gritty cityscape. And though most of Miller's copious nudity is absent, the violence is unrelentingly present. That may be the biggest obstacle to viewers who aren't already fans of the books and who may have been turned off by Kill Bill (whose director, Quentin Tarantino, helmed one scene of Sin City). In addition, it's a bleak, desperate world in which the heroes are killers, corruption rules, and the women are almost all prostitutes or strippers. But Miller's stories are riveting, and the huge cast—which also includes Jessica Alba, Jaime King, Brittany Murphy, Rosario Dawson, Benicio Del Toro, Elijah Wood, Nick Stahl, Michael Clarke Duncan, Devin Aoki, Carla Gugino, and Josh Hartnett—is just about perfect. (Only Bruce Willis and Michael Madsen, while very well-suited to their roles, seem hard to separate from their established screen personas.) In what Rodriguez hopes is the first of a series, Sin City is a spectacular achievement. —David Horiuchi

More Sin City at Amazon.com

The Graphic Novels and Books

Films by Robert Rodriguez

From Graphic Novel to Big Screen

The Soundtrack

Films by guest director Quentin Tarantino

Crime on DVD
Battlestar Galactica - Season One (2004)
Battlestar Galactica's Edward James Olmos wasn't kidding when he said "the series is even better than the miniseries." As developed by sci-fi TV veteran Ronald D. Moore, the "reimagined"BG is exactly what it claims to be: a drama for grown-ups in a science-fiction setting. The mature intelligence of the series is its greatest asset, from the tenuous respect between Galactica's militarily principled commander Adama (Olmos) and politically astute President Roslin (Mary McDonnell) to the barely suppressed passion between ace Viper pilot "Apollo" (a.k.a. Adama's son Lee, played by Jamie Bamber) and the brashly insubordinate Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff), whose multifaceted character is just one of many first-season highlights. Picking up where the miniseries ended (it's included here, sparing the need for separate purchase), season 1 opens with the riveting, Hugo Award-winning episode "33," in which Galactica and the "ragtag fleet" of colonial survivors begin their quest for the legendary 13th colony planet Earth, while being pursued with clockwork regularity by the Cylons, who've now occupied the colonial planet of Caprica. The fleet's hard-fought survival forms (1) the primary side of the series' three-part structure, shared with (2) the apparent psychosis of Dr. Gaius Baltar (James Callis) whose every thought and move are monitored by various incarnations of Number Six (Tricia Helfer), the seemingly omniscient Cylon ultravixen who follows a master plan somehow connected to (3) the Caprican survival ordeal of crash-landed pilots "Helo" (Tahmoh Penikett) and "Boomer" (Grace Park), whose simultaneous presence on Galactica is further evidence that 12 multicopied models of Cylons, in human form, are gathering their forces.

With remarkably consistent quality, each of these 13 episodes deepens the dynamics of these fascinating characters and suspenseful situations. While BG relies on finely nuanced performances, solid direction, and satisfying personal and political drama to build its strong emotional foundation, the action/adventure elements are equally impressive, especially in "The Hand of God," a pivotal episode in which the show's dazzling visual effects get a particularly impressive showcase. Original BG series star Richard Hatch appears in two politically charged episodes (he's a better actor now, too), and with the threat of civil war among the fleet, season 1 ends with an exceptional cliffhanger that's totally unexpected while connecting the plot threads of all preceding episodes. To the credit of everyone involved, this is frackin' good television.

DVD features
The fifth disc in Battlestar Galactica's season 1 set is highlighted by eight comprehensive featurettes covering all aspects of the series, from its miniseries origins to standard surveys of production design, visual effects, and particulars of plot and character. For hardcore fans and anyone interested in TV production, nine out of 13 episodes, plus the disc 1 miniseries, are accompanied by intelligent and informative commentary originally provided as BG website podcasts, mostly by series developer and writer Ronald D. Moore, who provides tantalizing clues about developments in season 2. The "Series Lowdown" is a cast-and-crew promotional program originally broadcast to attract SciFi Channel viewers who were initially reluctant to embrace a "reimagined"Battlestar Galactica. The strategy worked: First-season ratings left no doubt that the new BG was as good as—and in many ways better than—the original. —Jeff Shannon
Mazes and Monsters
Synopsis: Bound together by a desire to play "Mazes and Monsters", Robbie and his four college classmates decide to move the board game into the local legendary cavern. When Robbie starts having real life visions, the line between reality and fantasy fuse into a harrowing adventure.
Star Wars - Episode III, Revenge of the Sith
Ending the most popular film epic in history, Star Wars: Episode III, Revenge of the Sith is an exciting, uneven, but ultimately satisfying journey. Picking up the action from Episode II, Attack of the Clones as well as the animated Clone Wars series, Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) and his apprentice, Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen), pursue General Grievous into space after the droid kidnapped Supreme Chancellor Palpatine (Ian McDiarmid).

The Star Wars Family Tree (click for larger image)

It's just the latest maneuver in the ongoing Clone Wars between the Republic and the Separatist forces led by former Jedi turned Sith Lord Count Dooku (Christopher Lee). On another front, Master Yoda (voiced by Frank Oz) leads the Republic's clone troops against a droid attack on the Wookiee homeworld of Kashyyyk. All this is in the first half of Episode III, which feels a lot like Episodes I and II. That means spectacular scenery, dazzling dogfights in space, a new fearsome villain (the CGI-created Grievous can't match up to either Darth Maul or the original Darth Vader, though), lightsaber duels, groan-worthy romantic dialogue, goofy humor (but at least it's left to the droids instead of Jar-Jar Binks), and hordes of faceless clone troopers fighting hordes of faceless battle droids.

But then it all changes.

Star Wars Time Line (click for larger image)

After setting up characters and situations for the first two and a half movies, Episode III finally comes to life. The Sith Lord in hiding unleashes his long-simmering plot to take over the Republic, and an integral part of that plan is to turn Anakin away from the Jedi and toward the Dark Side of the Force. Unless you've been living under a rock the last 10 years, you know that Anakin will transform into the dreaded Darth Vader and face an ultimate showdown with his mentor, but that doesn't matter. In fact, a great part of the fun is knowing where things will wind up but finding out how they'll get there. The end of this prequel trilogy also should inspire fans to want to see the original movies again, but this time not out of frustration at the new ones. Rather, because Episode III is a beginning as well as an end, it will trigger fond memories as it ties up threads to the originals in tidy little ways. But best of all, it seems like for the first time we actually care about what happens and who it happens to.

Episode III is easily the best of the new trilogy—OK, so that's not saying much, but it might even jockey for third place among the six Star Wars films. It's also the first one to be rated PG-13 for the intense battles and darker plot. It was probably impossible to live up to the decades' worth of pent-up hype George Lucas faced for the Star Wars prequel trilogy (and he tried to lower it with the first two movies), but Episode III makes us once again glad to be "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away."—David Horiuchi

DVD features
Say what you will about the new Star Wars films—and plenty has been said already—but the DVDs continue to set the standard for technical excellence. From the opening of the first scene, the Dolby 5.1 EX sound is thrilling, and the picture, transferred directly from the digital source, is fantastic. A commentary track is again provided by a combination of people, including George Lucas, producer Rick McCallum, animation director Rob Coleman, and ILM visual effects supervisors John Knoll and Roger Guyett. Lucas admits that the film is political and that he was influenced by Vietnam, but makes no mention of the Bush administration, as is widely speculated.

The main documentary on the second disc is probably the most granular DVD feature ever. "Within a Minute: The Making of Episode III" takes 67 minutes to deconstruct one minute of the film, an excerpt of the duel on Mustafar. The idea is to cover all the aspects that go into creating that minute, from writing to set construction to accounting. Fortunately, many of the concepts such as costumes apply to the movie as a whole, but having producer Rick McCallum tell us the importance of food seems a bit overkill. Two other featurettes are "It's All for Real: The Stunts of Episode III," an 11-minute discussion focusing mainly on the lightsaber duels, and "The Chosen One," a 14-minute examination of Darth Vader's evolution over the six films.

The six deleted scenes were no great loss from the film but are all worth watching. Natalie Portman in particular gets some much-needed screen time as one of the co-plotters of an anti-Palpatine movement, and an early action scene ties in to the Clone Wars animated series. There's also a 15-part series of 5 to 7 minute Web documentaries on topics such as the creation of General Grievous and Ewan McGregor, and an Xbox sampler of Battlefront II (if you're lucky, you can play as Obi-Wan Kenobi cutting through an army of droids) among other supplements. —David Horiuchi

The Complete Star Wars Saga

Episodes 4-6 Trilogy (widescreen)

Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Episde II: Attack of the Clones

Star Wars: Clone Wars Vol. 1

Star Wars: Clone Wars Vol. 2

The Star Wars Store

Stills from Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (click for larger images)

Anakin turning to the dark side

When Wookiees attack

Yoda, Jedi master

Mr. and Mrs. Vader

Saber training with Ewan McGregor and Hayden Christensen

The cast
Battlestar Galactica - Season 2.0 (Episodes 1-10)
The first half of Battlestar Galactica's second season left no doubts about the continuing excellence of the best science fiction TV series of 2005. Beginning with the Colonial Fleet separated, Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan) botching his temporary command, and Capt. Adama (Edward James Olmos) near death after a Cylon assassination attempt, series producer/developer Ronald D. Moore and his gifted writing staff packed more into these 10 episodes than most series manage in a full season. Maintaining its reputation as an adult drama, the series is compellingly anchored by the gravitas of Olmos and Mary McDonnell, whose role as Fleet President Laura Roslin grows more complex as she reveals her diagnosis of breast cancer and defies Adama, playing the "religious card" with her conviction that prophetic visions will lead the embattled fleet toward its legendary home planet Earth. As Adama's son Apollo (Jamie Bamber) wrestles with his role in Roslin's mutinous agenda, paranoia runs high as Cylon copies (or "avatars") of Boomer (Grace Park) complicate matters aboard Galactica and on Kobol, where a lost Raptor crew struggles to survive and Dr. Baltar (James Callis) endures the increasingly haunting and manipulative intrusions into his tormented psyche by Number Six (Tricia Helfer), the seductive Cylon who holds the secret to the Cylon master plan to destroy humankind.

Further action takes place on Cylon-occupied Caprica, where Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) and Helo (Tamoh Penikett) discover a group of human resistance fighters who survived the Cylons' nuclear attack in season 1. As all of these plot threads are expertly interwoven, the high-stakes conflict of BG 2.0 culminates in a suspenseful mid-season cliffhanger. Through all of this, Battlestar Galactica maintains consistently high standards of intelligent drama and well-justified, story-based use of spectacular special effects, while developing rich relationships across a broad spectrum of interesting supporting characters. The series' large and likable cast is well-used throughout (even smaller roles are given adequate dimension), and Moore's "podcast" commentaries provide a smart, thorough analysis of the show's writing process and conceptual evolution. Yes, it's undeniably true that this half-season DVD set is a blatantly commercial ploy to lure more and more viewers into the ongoing season (which resumed in January 2006), but you can hardly blame Universal for capitalizing on a high-quality series. With solid ratings, good scripts, and a devoted cast and crew, Battlestar Galactica showed every indication of thriving toward a third season and beyond. —Jeff Shannon
Mirrormask
This visually stunning film is the product of a collaboration of award-winning graphic novelist Neil Gaiman (creator of the much-lauded Sandman series), his frequent collaborator Dave McKean (Cages), and The Jim Henson Company, themselves no strangers to elaborate fantasies such as The Dark Crystal. and Labyrinth. As with the latter film, MirrorMask focuses on a young woman unhappy with her daily existence; here, the artistically inclined Helena (Stephanie Leonides), is at odds with her circus performer parents. When a careless insult appears to send her mother (Gina McKee) into a coma, Helena withdraws into the dark and elaborate world of her drawings, in which a scenario very similar to her predicament in the real world is unfolding. Gaiman and director McKean create arresting images to populate Helena's world, and the Henson Company brings them vividly to life with CGI; though the story is occasionally murky, the fantasy elements are imaginative enough to enthrall what will undoubtedly be the film's toughest customers—younger viewers. —Paul Gaita
Serenity [HD DVD]
Serenity offers perfect proof that Firefly deserved a better fate than premature TV cancellation. Joss Whedon's acclaimed sci-fi Western hybrid series was ideally suited (in Browncoats, of course) for a big-screen conversion, and this action-packed adventure allows Whedon to fill in the Firefly backstory, especially the history and mystery of the spaceship Serenity's volatile and traumatized stowaway, River Tam (Summer Glau). Her lethal skills as a programmed "weapon" makes her a coveted prize for the power-hungry planetary Alliance, represented here by an Operative (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who'll stop at nothing to retrieve River from Serenity's protective crew. We still get all the quip-filled dialogue and ass-kicking action that we've come to expect from the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but Whedon goes a talented step further here, blessing his established ensemble cast with a more fully-developed dynamic of endearing relationships. Serenity's cast is led with well-balanced depth and humor by Nathan Fillion as Captain Mal Reynolds, whose maverick spirit is matched by his devotion to crewmates Wash (Alan Tudyk), Zoe (Gina Torres), fun-loving fighter Jayne (Adam Baldwin), engineer Kaylee (Jewel Staite), doctor Simon (Sean Maher), and Mal's former flame Inara (Morena Baccarin), who plays a pivotal role in Whedon's briskly-paced plot. As many critics agreed, Serenity offered all the fun and breezy excitement that was missing from George Lucas's latter-day Star Wars epics, and Whedon leaves an opening for a continuing franchise that never feels cheap or commercially opportunistic. With the mega-corporate mysteries of Blue Sun yet to be explored, it's a safe bet we haven't seen the last of the good ship Serenity. —Jeff Shannon
Apollo 13 [HD DVD]
* * * * *
Delicatessen
The title credit for Delicatessen reads "Presented by Terry Gilliam," and it's easy to understand why the director of Brazil was so supportive of this outrageously black French comedy from 1991. Like Gilliam, French codirectors Jean-Pierre Jeunet and Marc Caro have wildly inventive imaginations that gravitate to the darker absurdities of human behavior, and their visual extravagance is matched by impressive technical skill. Here, making their feature debut, Jeunet and Caro present a postapocalyptic scenario set entirely in a dank and gloomy building where the landlord operates a delicatessen on the ground floor. But this is an altogether meatless world, so the butcher-landlord keeps his customers happy by chopping unsuspecting victims into cutlets, and he's sharpening his knife for a new tenant (French comic actor Dominque Pinon) who's got the hots for the butcher's nearsighted daughter! Delicatessen is a feast (if you will) of hilarious vignettes, slapstick gags, and sweetly eccentric characters, including a man in a swampy room full of frogs, a woman doggedly determined to commit suicide (she never gets its right), and a pair of brothers who make toy sound boxes that "moo" like cows. It doesn't amount to much as a story, but that hardly matters; this is the kind of comedy that springs from a unique wellspring of imagination and inspiration, and it's handled with such visual virtuosity that you can't help but be mesmerized. There's some priceless comedy happening here, some of which is so inventive that you may feel the urge to stand up and cheer. —Jeff Shannon
Red Dwarf - Series 8
What's in store for the crew of the Red Dwarf in their final adventures? Well, for one, they've all been re-created—even Arnold Rimmer (unfortunately)—by the Nanobots, but Lister, Kochanski, Cat, and Kryten are almost immediately in hot water for allegedly stealing the Starbug. From there, things get stranger (or back to normal by Red Dwarf standards): it seems that everything the crew is experiencing is an artificial-reality creation programmed by the Red Dwarf's captain, Hollister ("Back in the Red, Part 2"); Rimmer discovers that despite his recent revival, he's doomed to die soon ("Cassandra"), which puts a serious crimp in his plan to finally make officer; the rewired Kryten turns a pet sparrow into a rampaging dinosaur ("Pete, Part 1") and turns a tidy profit by secretly filming women in the shower ("Krytie TV); and finally, the Grim Reaper comes to call in the series finale, "Only the Good Die Young," which reveals the fate of the entire crew. More bizarre than bittersweet, series 8 is classic Red Dwarf lunacy and an inspired sendoff for this unique and clever U.K. cult TV series. As with previous DVD sets, series 8 is loaded with extras, including commentary by the cast on "Cassandra";"The Tank," which offers interviews with the cast and crew; and featurettes on the show's origins and special model effects designer Bill Pearson. Rounding out the extras are deleted scenes, raw effects footage, a gallery of stills, a frothy "Fight!" music featurette comprised of brawl scenes from the series, a battery of promotional spots filmed for BBC and American PBS stations (as well as the amusing Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace parody that heralded the beginning of series 8), a 1984 "Dave Hollings: Space Cadet" radio sketch, and as always, a collection of "smeg-ups" (bloopers). —Paul Gaita
Jarhead [HD DVD]
* * * * - Based on Anthony Swofford's excellent memoir about his experiences as a Marine Sniper in Gulf War I, Jarhead is a war movie in which the waiting is a far greater factor upon the characters than the war itself, and the build up to combat is more drama than what combat is depicted. To some viewers hoping for typical movie action, this will seem like a cruel joke. But it's not. It's just the story as it was written, and if you liked the book, you will probably like the movie. If you didn't, then the movie won't change your mind.

The movie follows the trajectory of Swofford (played with thoughtful intensity by Jake Gyllenhaal) from wayward Marine recruit (he joined because he "got lost on the way to college") to skilled Marine sniper, and on into the desert in preparation for the attack on Iraq. No-nonsense, Marine-for-life Staff Sgt. Sykes (Jamie Foxx), the man who recruited Swofford and his spotter Troy (Peter Sarsgaard) into the sniper team, leads them in training, and in waiting where their lives are dominated by endless tension, pointless exercises in absurdity (like playing football in the scorching heat of the desert in their gas masks so it will look better for the media's TV cameras), more training, and constant anticipation of the moment to come when they'll finally get to kill. When the war does come, it moves too fast for Swofford's sniper team, and the one chance they get at a kill—to do the one thing they've trained so hard and waited so long for—eludes them, leaving them to wonder what was the point of all they had endured.

As directed by Sam Mendes (American Beauty), the movie remains very loyal to the language and vision of the book, but it doesn't entirely work as the film needs something more than a literal translation to bring out its full potential. Mendes's stark and, at times, apocalyptic visuals add a lot and strike the right tone: wide shots of inky-black oil raining down on the vast, empty desert from flaming oil wells contrasted with close-ups of crude-soaked faces struggling through the mire vividly bring to life the meaning of the tagline "welcome to the suck." But much of the second half of the movie will probably leave some viewers feeling disappointed in the cinematic experience, while others might appreciate its microcosmic depiction of modern chaos and aimlessness. Jarhead is one of those examples where the book is better than the movie, but not for lack of trying. —Dan Vancini
Full Metal Jacket [HD DVD]
* * * * - Stanley Kubrick's 1987, penultimate film seemed to a lot of people to be contrived and out of touch with the '80s vogue for such intensely realistic portrayals of the Vietnam War as Platoon and The Deer Hunter. Certainly, Kubrick gave audiences plenty of reason to wonder why he made the film at all: essentially a two-part drama that begins on a Parris Island boot camp for rookie Marines and abruptly switches to Vietnam (actually shot on sound stages and locations near London), Full Metal Jacket comes across as a series of self-contained chapters in a story whose logical and thematic development is oblique at best. Then again, much the same was said about Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, a masterwork both enthralled with and satiric about the future's role in the unfinished business of human evolution. In a way, Full Metal Jacket is the wholly grim counterpart of 2001. While the latter is a truly 1960s film, both wide-eyed and wary, about the intertwining of progress and isolation (ending in our redemption, finally, by death), Full Metal Jacket is a cynical, Reagan-era view of the 1960s' hunger for experience and consciousness that fulfilled itself in violence. Lee Ermey made film history as the Marine drill instructor whose ritualized debasement of men in the name of tribal uniformity creates its darkest angel in a murderous half-wit (Vincent D'Onofrio). Matthew Modine gives a smart and savvy performance as Private Joker, the clowning, military journalist who yearns to get away from the propaganda machine and know firsthand the horrific revelation of the front line. In Full Metal Jacket, depravity and fulfillment go hand in hand, and it's no wonder Kubrick kept his steely distance from the material to make the point. —Tom Keogh
The Chronicles of Riddick [HD DVD]
The Fugitive [HD DVD]
Catch him if you can. The Fugitive is on the run! Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones race through the breathless manhunt movie based on the classic TV series. Ford is prison escapee Dr. Richard Kimble, a Chicago surgeon falsely convicted of killing his wife and determined to prove his innocence by leading his pursuers to the one-armed man who actually committed the crime. Jones (1993 Academy Award and Golden Globe winner as Best Supporting Actor) is Sam Gerard, an unrelenting bloodhound of a U.S. Marshal. They are hunted and hunter. And as directed by Andrew Davis (Under Siege), their nonstop chase has one exhilarating speed: all-out. So catch him if you can. And catch an 11-on-a-scale-of-10 train wreck (yes, the train is real), a plunge down a waterfall, a cat-and-mouse jaunt through a Chicago St. Patrick's Day parade and much more. Better hurry. Kimble doesn't stay in one place very long!

DVD Features:
Audio Commentary:Commentary with Andrew Davis and Tommy Lee Jones
Featurette
Interviews
Introduction:Intro by Andrew Davis, Tommy Lee Jones, and Harrison Ford
Other:"Derailed: Anatomy of a Train Wreck""On the Run"
View From Space With Heavenly Music [HD DVD]
Eight hours of music all on one disc, HD DVD or Standard Definition . . . the greatest classical music ever recorded, in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound, provides the heavenly soundtrack to this spectacular view of our planet captured in stunning High Definition clarity by the international crew of the space shuttle Endeavour. The Earth, as never seen before, accompanied by the timeless music of Vivaldi, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Pachelbel, Strauss, Grieg, Bizet, Debussy, Rossini and more. Over eight hours of music on one DVD.
Ultraviolet (Unrated, Extended Cut)
As an overdose of eye candy, Ultraviolet can be marginally recommended as the second-half of a double-feature with Aeon Flux. Both films are disposable adolescent fantasies featuring a butt-kicking babe (in this case, the svelte and sexy Milla Jovovich) in a dystopian future, and both specialize in the kind of barely-coherent, video-game storytelling that's constantly overwhelmed by an over-abundance of low-budget CGI. Director Kurt Wimmer fared much better with his earlier film Equilibrium, but he's trying for a lively comic-book vibe here (beginning with Hulk-like opening credits) with a digitally enhanced, Tron-like color palette. It largely suits this late-21st century story of a "blood war" between the ultra-violent Violet (Jovovich), member of a vampire-like group of resistance fighters infected with a man-made virus called the Hemophage, and the human Vice Cardinal Daxus (Nick Chinlund), who's determined to eliminate Violet's kind once and for all. Wimmer takes all of this way too seriously, crafting a plot involving Violet's rescue of a human clone boy (Cameron Bright) that's intended as an homage to John Cassevetes' 1980 drama Gloria, but Wimmer's good intentions are mostly lost in a repetitive series of chaotically choreographed fight scenes, mostly involving the tight-bodied Jovovich wiping out dozens of armor-clad enemies. It's all too numbingly hectic to qualify as a satisfying movie, but sci-fi buffs should give it a look anyway, if only to see how locations in Shanghai and Hong Kong contribute to the film's futuristic design.—Jeff Shannon
Pitch Black (Unrated) [HD DVD]
* * * * * Owing a major debt to Alien and its cinematic spawn, Pitch Black is a guilty pleasure that surpasses expectations. As he did with The Arrival, director David Twohy revitalizes a derivative story, allowing you to forgive its flaws and submit to its visceral thrills. Under casual scrutiny, the plot's logic crumbles like a stale cookie, but it's definitely fun while it lasts.

A spaceship crashes on a desert planet scorched under three suns. The mostly doomed survivors include a resourceful captain (Radha Mitchell), a drug-addled cop (Cole Hauser), and a deadly prisoner (Vin Diesel) who quickly escapes. These clashing personalities discover that the planet is plunging into the darkness of an extended eclipse, and it's populated by hordes of ravenous, razor-fanged beasties that only come out at night. The body count rises, and Pitch Black settles into familiar sci-fi territory.

What sets the movie apart is Twohy's developing visual style, suggesting that this veteran of B-movie schlock may advance to the big leagues. Like the makers of The Blair Witch Project, Twohy understands the frightening power of suggestion; his hungry monsters are better heard than seen (although once seen, they're chillingly effective), and Pitch Black gets full value from moments of genuine panic. Best of all, Twohy's got a well-matched cast, with Mitchell (so memorable with Ally Sheedy in High Art) and Diesel (Pvt. Caparzo from Saving Private Ryan) being the standouts. The latter makes the most of his muscle-man role, and his character's development is one more reason this movie works better than it should. —Jeff Shannon
Brazil - The Criterion Collection (3-Disc Boxed Set)
Traffic (HD DVD)
Battlestar Galactica - Season 2.5 (Episodes 11-20)
Battlestar Galactica's season 2.5 (i.e., the final 10 episodes of the second season) picks up where season 2.0 (the first 10 episodes) left off: Galactica's giddy reunion with the Pegasus had taken a sour turn when Admiral Cain (Michelle Forbes) went back on her word to Commander Adama (Edward James Olmos) and decided to integrate the crews, moving Apollo (Jamie Bamber) and Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff) to Pegasus. The animosity, combined with an attack on Sharon (Grace Park), threatens to derail a golden opportunity for the fleet to strike the Cylons where they'll hurt, and stay hurt—their resurrection ship.

In many ways, Sharon is the central character. The attack lands Helo (Tahmoh Penikett) and the Chief (Aaron Douglas) in hot water; her impending baby remains the subject of heated debate among president Laura Roslyn (Mary McDonnell), Commander Adama, and others; and a rebellious movement determined to force Galactica to give up the Cylon ends up threatening both Apollo and Starbuck and putting further strain on their already-shaky relationship. Dr. Baltar (James Callis) becomes even more intertwined with the Cylons when he discovers another version of Number Six (Tricia Helfer) on the Pegasus, but is also in line to take over the presidency as Roslin's cancer reaches a critical stage. Battlestar Galactica's inexorable dramatic arc sagged in a couple episodes during this run, but the terrific two-part season finale involving a presidential election, a glimmer of hope for humanity, and some unexpected turns of events makes for a thrilling springboard to season 3. Battlestar is often called the best sci-fi show on television, but that seems like damning it with faint praise; it's the best drama on television.

In addition to the 10 episodes, the three-DVD set has an extended version of the last episode of season 2.0, "Pegasus"; the extra 15 minutes include a longer conversation in which Cain reveals her plans to Adama. That episode has a commentary track by executive producers Ronald D. Moore and David Eick, Moore's podcast commentaries are on every other episode, Eick's "video blogs" serve as casual featurettes on series production, and there are numerous deleted scenes. —David Horiuchi
Terminator 3 - Rise of the Machines [HD DVD]
A decade has passed since John Connor (NICK STAHL) helped prevent Judgment Day and save mankind from mass destruction. Now 25, Connor lives "off the grid" - no home, no credit cards, no cell phone and no job. No record of his existence. No way he can be traced by Skynet - the highly developed network of machines that once tried to kill him and wage war on humanity. Until, out of the shadows of the future steps the T-X (KRISTANNA LOKEN), Skynet's most sophisticated cyborg killing machine yet. Sent back through time to complete the job left unfinished by her predecessor, the T-1000, this machine is as relentless as her human guise is beautiful. Now Connor's only hope for survival is the Terminator (ARNOLD SCHWARZENEGGER), his mysterious former assassin. Together, they must triumph over the technologically superior T-X and forestall the looming threat of Judgment Day - or face the apocalypse and the fall of civilization as we know it.

DVD Features:
Audio Commentary
Deleted Scenes
Documentaries
Easter Eggs
Featurette
Gag Reel
Introduction
Photo gallery
Army of Darkness (HD DVD & DVD Combo)
Batman Begins [HD DVD]
Batman Begins explores the origins of the Batman legend and the Dark Knight's emergence as a force for good in Gotham. In the wake of his parents' murder, disillusioned industrial heir Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) travels the world seeking the means to fight injustice and turn fear against those who prey on the fearful. He returns to Gotham and unveils his alter-ego: Batman, a masked crusader who uses his strength, intellect and an array of high tech deceptions to fight the sinister forces that threaten the city.
The Polar Express [HD DVD]
Destined to become a holiday perennial, The Polar Express also heralded a brave new world of all-digital filmmaking. Critics and audiences were divided between those who hailed it as an instant classic that captures the visual splendor and evocative innocence of Chris Van Allsburg's popular children's book, and those who felt that the innovative use of "performance capture"—to accurately translate live performances into all-digital characters—was an eerie and not-quite-lifelike distraction from the story's epic-scale North Pole adventure. In any case it's a benign, kind-hearted celebration of the yuletide spirit, especially for kids who have almost grown out of their need to believe in Santa Claus. Tom Hanks is the nominal "star" who performs five different computer-generated characters, but it's the visuals that steal this show, as director Robert Zemeckis indulges his tireless pursuit of technological innovation. No matter how you respond to the many wonders on display, it's clear that The Polar Express represents a significant milestone in the digital revolution of cinema. If it also fills you with the joy of Christmas (in spite of its Nuremberg-like rally of frantic elves), so much the better. —Jeff Shannon

The World of The Polar Express

The book by Chris Van Allsburg

The Soundtrack

The Magic Journey (Polar Express the Movie) (book)

Stills from Polar Express (click for larger image)
Mission - Impossible III (Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition) [HD DVD]
At the time of its release, Mission: Impossible III's box office was plagued by the publicity backlash against couch-jumping star Tom Cruise. It's too bad, because this third installment of the spy thriller franchise deserved a better reception than it got. First-time feature director J.J. Abrams (bigwig TV director/producer of Lost, Alias, &Felicity) proves more than able-bodied in creating a Mission: Impossible that's leaner and less over-stylized than John Woo's sequel and less confusing than Brian De Palma's original. Plot is still a throwaway here (Cruise's Ethan Hunt rescues his kidnapped former trainee and works to steal a device that... well, we don't really know what it does, but it's something about mass destruction that costs $850 million), but the action sequences, particularly one where Ethan faces down a helicopter on a bridge and gets flung hard against the side of a car, are particularly impressive since Cruise, at 44, is still doing most of his own stunts and shows no hint of the weathered look that's struck his action-star peers. (Though no Mission: Impossible stunt will ever be quite as simultaneously nail-biting and funny as the first film's wire-dangling break-in of CIA headquarters.)

Mission: Impossible III boasts a pedigreed cast, particularly Oscar® winner Philip Seymour Hoffman (Capote) as baddie arms dealer Owen Davian. Hoffman plays Owen all teeth-clenched and cool, especially when threatening to kill Ethan in front of his lovely new wife (Michelle Monaghan) who has no idea of his spy life. But in his first action-film lead role, Hoffman's almost too calm and collected to really make a memorable villain, especially when the rest of the cast—Ving Rhames (the only other cast member to return for all three films), Asian film star Maggie Q, and an underused Jonathan Rhys-Meyers—are a highlight as Ethan's IMF team. Mission: Impossible is still fun popcorn spy fare, and if Cruise chooses to end the franchise here, at least he goes out on a high note. —Ellen A. Kim
Mission Impossible - Ultimate Missions Collection (Mission - Impossible / Mission - Impossible II / Mission - Impossible III) [HD DVD]
This 3pk includes Mission: Impossible SCE, Mission: Impossible 2, and Mission: Impossible 3 SCE.
V for Vendetta [HD DVD]
"Remember, remember the fifth of November," for on this day, in 2020, the minds of the masses shall be set free. So says code-name V (Hugo Weaving), a man on a mission to shake society out of its blank complacent stares in the film V For Vendetta. His tactics, however, are a bit revolutionary to say the least. The world in which V lives is very similar to Orwell's totalitarian dystopia in 1984: after years of various wars, England is now under "big brother" Chancellor Adam Sutler (played by John Hurt, who ironically played Winston Smith in the movie 1984) whose party uses force and fear to run the nation. After gaining power, minorities and political dissenters were rounded up and removed; artistic and unacceptable religious works were confiscated. Cameras and microphones are littered throughout the land, and the people are perpetually sedated through the governmentally controlled media. Taking inspiration from Guy Fawkes, the 17th century co-conspirator of a failed attempt to blow up Parliament on November 5, 1605, V dons a Fawkes mask and costume and sets off to wake the masses by destroying the symbols of their oppressors, literally and figuratively. At the beginning of his vendetta, V rescues Evey (Natalie Portman) from a group of police officers and has her live with him in his underworld lair. It is through their relationship where we learn how V became V, the extremities of the party's corruption, the problems of an oppressive government, V's revenge plot and his philosophy on how to induce change.

Based on the popular graphic novel by Alan Moore, V For Vendetta's screenplay was written by the Wachowski Brothers (of The Matrix fame) and directed by their protégé, James McTeigue. Controversy and criticism followed the film since its inception, from the hyper-stylized use of anarchistic terrorism to overthrow a corrupt government and the blatant jabs at the current US political arena, to graphic novel fans complaining about the reconstruction of Alan Moore's original vision (Moore himself has dismissed the film). Many are valid critiques and opinions, but there's no hiding the message the film is trying to express: Radical and drastic events often need to occur in order to shake people out of their state of indifference in order to bring about real change. Unfortunately, the movie only offers a means with no ends, and those looking for answers may find the film stylish, but a bit empty. —Rob Bracco
King Kong (HD-DVD)
Superman Returns (Combo Standard DVD and HD DVD) [HD DVD]
If Richard Donner's 1978 feature film Superman: The Movie made us believe a man could fly, Bryan Singer's 2006 follow-up, Superman Returns, lets us remember that a superhero movie can make our spirits soar. Superman (played by newcomer Brandon Routh) comes back to Earth after a futile five-year search for his destroyed home planet of Krypton. As alter ego Clark Kent, he's eager to return to his job at the Daily Planet and to see Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth). Lois, however, has moved on: she now has a fiancé (James Marsden), a son (Tristan Leabu), and a Pulitzer Prize for her article entitled "Why the World Doesn't Need Superman." On top of this emotional curveball, his old archrival Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) is plotting the biggest land grab in history.

Singer, who made a strong impression among comic-book fans for his work on the X-Men franchise and directed Spacey in The Usual Suspects, brings both a fresh eye and a sense of respect to the world's oldest superhero. He borrows John Williams's great theme music and Marlon Brando's voice as Jor-El, and the story (penned by Singer's X-Men collaborators Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris) is a sort-of-sequel to the first two films in the franchise (choosing to ignore that the third and fourth movies ever happened). The humorous and romantic elements give the movie a heart, Singer's art-deco Metropolis is often breathtaking, and the special effects are elegant and spectacular, particularly an early airplane-disaster set-piece. Of the cast, Routh is excellent as the dual Superman/Clark, Spacey is both droll and vicious as Luthor, and Parker Posey gets the best lines as Luthor's moll Kitty. But at 23, Bosworth seems too young for the five-years-past-grizzled Lois. It's nice to see Noel Neill, Jack Larson (both from the classic Adventures of Superman TV series), and Eva Marie-Saint on the screen as well. Superman Returns is one of those projects that was in development for seemingly forever, but it was worth the wait — it's the most enjoyable superhero movie since Spider-Man 2 and The Incredibles. —David Horiuchi

On the DVD
The two-disc edition offers about three hours of documentaries and other features. "Requiem for Krypton: Making Superman Returns" is an eight-part documentary about the movie, going back to Bryan Singer conceiving the movie back in 2004. There's a lot of on-set footage and analyses of special effects and stunts such as Brandon Routh's flying (helped by his swimming regimen), focusing more on the filming process than the design. For example, we see how the Metropolis scenes were shot but not how the often-striking sets were designed. Marlon Brando appears briefly in the bloopers section, and "Resurrecting Jor-El" spotlights the techniques used to create his footage. The eleven deleted scenes (about 15 minutes total) contain nothing earth-shaking, but it's nice to see more Eva Marie-Saint, one scene of Clark back in Smallville that could have altered the dynamic of his return to The Daily Planet, and a scene between Kevin Spacey and Parker Posey that is good for a laugh. —David Horiuchi

More Superman

Watch our exclusive interviews with the cast of Superman Returns

Other feature films

Superman in high definition

Smallville

Adventures of Superman

See all Superman DVDs
Hulk [HD DVD]
When the Hulk gets angry, his movie gets good, so you wish he'd get angry more often. Accepting this challenge after the triumphant Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, director Ang Lee has created an ambitious film, based on the Marvel comic created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, that succeeds as a cautionary tale about mad science and traumatized children coping with legacies of pain. That's the Hulk's problem: After accidental exposure to gamma radiation, scientist Bruce Banner (Eric Bana) turns into the huge, green, and indestructible Hulk when provoked, and repressed childhood memories fuel his fury. Hobbled by the obligatory "origin story" (to acquaint neophytes with the character's Jekyll-and-Hyde-ish fate), there's room for little else in a sluggish film that struggles to reconcile Lee's stylistic flair (evident in his visual interpretation of comic-book technique) with the razzle-dazzle of a megabudget franchise. What's good is good (Jennifer Connelly essentially echoes her role from A Beautiful Mind, and Nick Nolte is righteously tormented as Banner's father), but the movie's schizoid intentions remain largely unclear. —Jeff Shannon
Pan's Labyrinth (Exclusive to Amazon.co.uk - Limited Edition Art Cards and Slipcase)
Inspired by the Brothers Grimm, Jorge Luis Borges, and Guillermo del Toro's own unlimited imagination, Pan's Labyrinth is a fairytale for adults. Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) may only be 12, but the worlds she inhabits, both above and below ground, are dark as anything del Toro has conjured. Set in rural Spain, circa 1944, Ofelia and her widowed mother, Carmen (Ariadna Gil, Belle Epoque), have just moved into an abandoned mill with Carmen's new husband, Captain Vidal (Sergi López, With a Friend like Harry). Carmen is pregnant with his son. Other than her sickly mother and kindly housekeeper Mercedes (Maribel Verdú, Y Tu Mamá También), the dreamy Ofelia is on her own. Vidal, an exceedingly cruel man, couldn't be bothered. He has informers to torture. Ofelia soon finds that an entire universe exists below the mill. Her guide is the persuasive Faun (Doug Jones, Mimic). As her mother grows weaker, Ofelia spends more and more time in the satyr's labyrinth. He offers to help her out of her predicament if she'll complete three treacherous tasks. Ofelia is willing to try, but does this alternate reality really exist or is it all in her head? Del Toro leaves that up to the viewer to decide in a beautiful, yet brutal twin to The Devil's Backbone, which was also haunted by the ghost of Franco. Though it lacks the humour of Hellboy, Pan's Labyrinth represents Guillermo Del Toro at the top of his considerable game. —Kathleen C. Fennessy
Children of Men (Combo HD DVD and Standard DVD)
Presenting a bleak, harrowing, and yet ultimately hopeful vision of humankind's not-too-distant future, Children of Men is a riveting cautionary tale of potential things to come. Set in the crisis-ravaged future of 2027, and based on the atypical 1993 novel by British mystery writer P.D. James, the anxiety-inducing, action-packed story is set in a dystopian England where humanity has become infertile (the last baby was born in 2009), immigration is a crime, refugees (or "fugees") are caged like animals, and the world has been torn apart by nuclear fallout, rampant terrorism, and political rebellion. In this seemingly hopeless landscape of hardscrabble survival, a jaded bureaucrat named Theo (Clive Owen) is drawn into a desperate struggle to deliver Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), the world's only pregnant woman, to a secret group called the Human Project that hopes to discover a cure for global infertility. As they carefully navigate between the battling forces of military police and a pro-immigration insurgency, Theo, Kee, and their secretive allies endure a death-defying ordeal of urban warfare, and director Alfonso Cuaron (with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki) capture the action with you-are-there intensity. There's just enough humor to balance the film's darker content (much of it coming from Michael Caine, as Theo's aging hippie cohort), and although Children of Men glosses over many of the specifics about its sociopolitical worst-case scenario (which includes Julianne Moore in a brief but pivotal role), it's still an immensely satisfying, pulse-pounding vision of a future that represents a frightening extrapolation of early 21st-century history. —Jeff Shannon
Planet Earth - The Complete BBC Series [HD DVD]
As of its release in early 2007, Planet Earth is quite simply the greatest nature/wildlife series ever produced. Following the similarly monumental achievement of The Blue Planet: Seas of Life, this astonishing 11-part BBC series is brilliantly narrated by Sir David Attenborough and sensibly organized so that each 50-minute episode covers a specific geographical region and/or wildlife habitat (mountains, caves, deserts, shallow seas, seasonal forests, etc.) until the entire planet has been magnificently represented by the most astonishing sights and sounds you'll ever experience from the comforts of home. The premiere episode, "From Pole to Pole," serves as a primer for things to come, placing the entire series in proper context and giving a general overview of what to expect from each individual episode. Without being overtly political, the series maintains a consistent and subtle emphasis on the urgent need for ongoing conservation, best illustrated by the plight of polar bears whose very behavior is changing (to accommodate life-threatening changes in their fast-melting habitat) in the wake of global warming—a phenomenon that this series appropriately presents as scientific fact. With this harsh reality as subtext, the series proceeds to accentuate the positive, delivering a seemingly endless variety of natural wonders, from the spectacular mating displays of New Guinea's various birds of paradise to a rare encounter with Siberia's nearly-extinct Amur Leopards, of which only 30 remain in the wild.

That's just a hint of the marvels on display. Accompanied by majestic orchestral scores by George Fenton, every episode is packed with images so beautiful or so forcefully impressive (and so perfectly photographed by the BBC's tenacious high-definition camera crews) that you'll be rendered speechless by the splendor of it all. You'll see a seal struggling to out-maneuver a Great White Shark; swimming macaques in the Ganges delta; massive flocks of snow geese numbering in the hundreds of thousands; an awesome night-vision sequence of lions attacking an elephant; the Colugo (or "flying lemur"—not really a lemur!) of the Philippines; a hunting alliance of fish and snakes on Indonesia's magnificent coral reef; the bioluminescent "vampire squid" of the deep oceans... these are just a few of countless highlights, masterfully filmed from every conceivable angle, with frequent use of super-slow-motion and amazing motion-controlled time-lapse cinematography, and narrated by Attenborough with his trademark combination of observational wit and informative authority. The result is a hugely entertaining series that doesn't flinch from the predatory realities of nature (death is a constant presence, without being off-putting).

At a time when the multiple threats of global warming should be obvious to all, let's give Sir David the last word, from the closing of Planet Earth's final episode: "We can now destroy or we can cherish—the choice is ours."—Jeff Shannon

More Planet Earth

Planet Earth on Blu-ray

Planet Earth on DVD

More BBC DVDs

Stills from Planet Earth (click for larger image)
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl [Blu-ray]
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE CURSE OF THE BLACK PEARL pulses with heart pounding excitement in a Blu-ray 2 disc-set created from the original digital source files. Starring Johnny Depp Disney's action-packed thrill ride delivers more mile-a-minute adventure than ever in this mind-boggling format. Climb aboard as legendary pirate Captain Jack Sparrow and young sword-maker Will Turner join forces to rescue a governor's daughter from a band of bloodthirsty undead pirates. See the glint of each sword with eye-piercing clarity. Hear the waves crash and feel the explosive impact of every cannon blast with audio technology so advanced it'll blow you away! Taste the salty brine in the air and experience "Pirates" as if for the very first time with Disney Blu-ray Magic in High Definition!System Requirements:Running Time: 143 minutesFormat: BLU-RAY DISC Genre: ACTION/ADVENTURE/SWASHBUCKLERS Rating: PG-13 UPC: 786936724790 Manufacturer No: 05345500
The Frighteners (Peter Jackson's Director's Cut) [HD DVD]
One movie lover's nightmare is another's raucous joyride, and this special effects-laden horror comedy is bound to split both camps right down the middle. (Or, as Leonard Maltin's Movie & Video Guide puts it, "definitely not for all tastes but a wild time for those who get into it.") Michael J. Fox plays a psychic investigator who can actually see ghosts, and lives with a trio of undead spirits who scare people to promote Fox's ghost-busting business. In a town infamous for serial killings, a new series of deaths prompts Fox to induce his own out-of-body experience so he can battle death in a spirit-plagued netherworld where evil reigns supreme—or something like that. So much happens in this chaotic film that you might feel like you're watching several movies at once—a slasher pic, a supernatural thriller, and a black comedy all rolled into a nonstop showcase for grisly makeup and a dozen varieties of special effects. It's an odd but wildly inventive film from New Zealand director Peter Jackson, who earned critical acclaim for his previous film Heavenly Creatures and would later create the ingenious pseudo-documentary Forgotten Silver. —Jeff Shannon
Heroes - Season One
Arguably the most talked-about television show of the 2006-2007 season, the Emmy-nominated fantasy Heroes gives viewers blends comic book-style adventure with plotting and characters as rich and layered as any graphic novel or drama series. Creator Tim Kring's premise is deceptively simple - ordinary individuals in locations around the globe discover that they have, for lack of a better term, super powers, and wrestle with this reality while facing challenges both global (the destruction of New York City, for one) and personal (indestructible cheerleader Hayden Panetierre has family issues - serious ones, as the true identity of her adoptive father reveals; Milo Ventimiglia's Peter Petrelli, who absorbs other powers, must overcome his own insecurities). Add to this mix a terrific villain - Zachary Quinto's Sylar, who hunts and kills people with extraordinary powers like our heroes - and viewers have a riveting series that exhibits an almost-perfect balance of cliffhanger thrills (the action and special effects are truly impressive for a network program) and genuine drama that sets the show apart from most speculative fiction (save, perhaps, the revived Battlestar Galactica, which it compares too favorably). The seven-disc set of Heroes: Season One offers a wealth of extras for fans, who may be familiar with some of them through the NBC.com website, especially the cast commentaries, which are featured on half of the episodes. Kring is featured on the 73-minute uncut pilot episode, which for some viewers, may be even better than the network version; the main difference is the degree of character development, including an entire storyline for D.L. Hawkins that isn't featured in the broadcast version. Also on deck are some 50 deleted scenes from the episodes, several by-the-books making-of featurettes, including coverage of the special effects and stunt work, and a profile of artist Tim Sale, whose illustrations are used for Isaac Mendez's prophetic artwork. Prospective buyers should note that while all of these supplemental features are included on the HD-DVD version of this set, the special Web-connectivity elements are not available here. — Paul Gaita
Robot Chicken - Season Two (Uncensored)
Old-school stop-motion animation and fast-paced satire are the hallmarks of this eclectic show created by Seth Green and Matt Senreich. Action figures find new life as players in frenetic sketch-comedy vignettes that skewer TV, movies, music and celebrity. It's television especially formulated for the Attention Deficit Disorder generation.

DVD Features:
Deleted Scenes
Gag Reel
Other
Upright Citizens Brigade - The Complete First Season
Upright Citizens Brigade - The Complete Second Season
Sketch comedy show revolves around the Upright Citizens Brigade, an underground organization "with no government ties and unlimited resources" dedicated to creating and monitoring chaos from their secure underground base. The show's sketches depict chaotic or bizarre events in the world, events which are often directly engineered by the UCB. Another defining feature of the show is a series of real-world pranks, which tied in with the show's theme. Usually run at the end of each episode, these hidden-camera pranks feature the cast (as either the central UCB characters or other characters from that day's episode) interacting with real strangers.
2001 - A Space Odyssey [Blu-ray]
A space mission that could reveal man?s destiny is jeopardized by a malfunctioning shipboard computer. A dazzling journey that tops them all ? and showed the way for other effects-packed films that followed.
Ratatouille
One key point: if you can get over the natural gag reflex of seeing hundreds of rodents swarming over a restaurant kitchen, you will be free to enjoy the glory of Ratatouille, a delectable Pixar hit. Our hero is Remy, a French rat (voiced by Patton Oswalt) with a cultivated palate, who rises from his humble beginnings to become head chef at a Paris restaurant. How this happens is the stuff of Pixar magic, that ineffable blend of headlong comedy, seamless technology, and wonder (in the latter department, this movie's views of nighttime Paris are on a par with French cinema at its most lyrical). Director Brad Bird (The Incredibles) doesn't quite keep all his spinning plates in the air, but the gags are great and the animation amazingly expressive—Remy—Remy's shrugs and nods are nimbler than many flesh-and-blood actors can manage. Refreshingly, the movie's characters aren't celebrity-reliant, with the most recognizable voice coming from Peter O'Toole's snide food critic. (This fellow provides the film's sole sour note—an oddly pointed slap at critics, those craven souls who have done nothing but rave about Pixar's movies over the years.) Brad Bird's style is more quick-hit and less resonant than the approach of Pixar honcho John Lasseter, but it's hard to complain about a movie that cooks up such bountiful pleasure. —Robert Horton
Ocean's Thirteen
George Clooney is one, Brad Pitt is two, Matt Damon three... well, let's just assume there are 13 collaborators in this installment of Steven Soderbergh's profitable caper franchise. We're back in Las Vegas for Ocean's Thirteen, where the boys plot to shut down the brand-new venture of a backstabbing hotelier (Al Pacino) because the guy double-crossed the now-ailing Reuben (Elliott Gould). If you look at the plot too closely, the entire edifice collapses (hey, how about those Chunnel-digging giant drills?), but Soderbergh conjures up a visual style that swings like Bobby Darin at the Copa. Other than the movie-star dazzle, the main reason to see the film is Soderbergh's uncanny feel for how the widescreen frame can float through the neon spaces of Vegas or sort through groups of characters sitting in hotel rooms talking (he shot the film himself, under his pseudonym Peter Andrews).

The film doesn't give enough time to goofballs Casey Affleck and Scott Caan (whose riffs made Ocean's Twelve worth seeing), although it provides comic stuff for a fun roster of actors, including Eddie Izzard, David Paymer, and Bob ("Super Dave") Einstein. Meanwhile, Ellen Barkin makes a fetching assistant for Pacino, and Pacino himself, his hair dyed Trumpian orange, is content to gnaw on some ham for the duration. Biggest puzzle about the two sequels is why George Clooney seems content to retreat from centerstage. Still, his Hemingwayesque conversations with Pitt are an amusing form of male shorthand, and even as the movie overstays its welcome during a long finale, Clooney's easy sense of cool makes it all seem acceptable. —Robert Horton
Shrek the Third
It's not easy being an ogre, but Shrek finds it doubly difficult for an ogre like himself to fill in for a king when his father-in-law King Harold of Far, Far Away falls ill in this third Shrek movie. Shrek's attempts to fulfill his kingly duties play like a blooper reel, with boat christenings and knighting ceremonies gone terribly wrong, and to say that Shrek (Mike Myers) is insecure about his new role is a gross understatement. When King Harold (John Cleese) passes away, Shrek sets out with Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas) to find Arthur (Justin Timberlake), the only heir in line for the throne besides himself. Just as Shrek sets sail to find Artie (as Arthur is more commonly known), Fiona (Cameron Diaz) shocks Shrek with the news that she's pregnant. Soon after, Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) sends Captain Hook (Ian McShane) in pursuit of Shrek and imprisons Fiona and her fellow Princesses as part of his plan to install himself as King of Far, Far Away. Shrek finds an awkward Artie jousting with his high school classmate Lancelot (John Krasinski) and, while Artie is certainly no picture of kingliness, Shrek is determined to drag him back to Far, Far Away to assume the throne. Mishaps and comedy abound, including a spell gone wrong that locks Donkey and Puss-in-Boots inside one another's bodies. While Fiona and the other Princesses prove they're anything but helpless women, Artie and Shrek battle their own fears of inadequacy in a struggle to discover their own self-worth. In the end, Shrek, Artie, and Fiona each learn a lot about their individual strengths and what truly makes each of them happy. Of course, it's the pervasive humor and wit that make Shrek the Third so side-splittingly appealing. Rated PG for some crude and suggestive humor, but appropriate for most families with children ages 6 and older. —Tami Horiuchi

Beyond Shrek The Third

The Shrek Trilogy

The Soundtrack

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Stills from Shrek The Third (click for larger image)
Harry Potter Years 1-5 Limited Edition Gift Set [HD DVD]
Available Audio Tracks: English (Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1), French (Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital-Plus 5.1)

Limited Edition Package Includes:

Special Trunk Packaging
Two-Disc Editions of Harry Potter 1-5
Harry Potter Interactive DVD Game
5 Collectible Bookmarks
16 Collectible Trading Cards

3 Hours of Special Content

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
2001 International TV Special: A Glimpse Into the World of Harry Potter Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
2002 HBO First Look Special: Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets Revealed

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
2004 HBO First Look Special: Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban: Something Wicked This Way Comes
2004 ABC Special: The Making of Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban Interview with Alfonso Cuaron (in Spanish, subtitled)

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
2005 ITV/Granada Special: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire: Behind the Magic
2005 ITV/Granada Special: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire: Some Animal Magic
2005 HBO First Look Special: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire: Dark Matters, New Masters

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
2007 International TV Special: Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix: The Rebellion Begins
2007 HBO First Look Special: Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix: Fulfilling a Prophecy

HARRY POTTER characters, names, and related indicia are trademarks of and (c) Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. Harry Potter Publishing Rights (c) J.K.R. (c) 2007 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All rights reserved.
The Simpsons Movie
The Simpsons had already ruled TV land for many years by the time they finally attempted to conquer the movie world as well. It was never any big secret that a Simpsons movie was in the works: Fox registered the domain name "Simpsonsmovie.com" in 1997, a full nine years before the film was finally greenlighted. When creator/producer Matt Groening's creation finally made it to the big screen in 2007, it only turned out to be the biggest hit of the summer, raking in over $100 million gross in box-office receipts in its first week, before heading on to do over $500 million worldwide, proving that the best joke in the movie was actually played on the audience: "Why pay for something when you can see it for free?" asks Homer at the movie's start. Naturally, all the trouble starts with him. When he adopts a pig ("Sir Oinks-A-Lot") destined for Krusty's slaughterhouse, it triggers an environmental catastrophe, forcing the government to seal Springfield into a dome and destroy the city. While the family manages to escape and flee to Alaska, they eventually decide to return and help save the city in more-or-less classic Simpson fashion. As Homer's joke about the audience shows, Groening and producer Al Jean are keenly aware that their franchise is first and foremost a TV show. Maybe a little too aware, as the movie fails to ever rise above anything more than an extended episode, and not even one of its best episodes at that. True, there are plenty of good jokes; the animation has been kicked up a notch to be particularly sharp and detailed; and there are some truly memorable moments such as Bart's nude skateboard ride and the "Spider-Pig" song. But when the film finally materialized, the payoff for long years of anticipation turned out to be small as the movie failed to live up to its potential; it's amusing but not truly funny. The Simpsons Movie leaves the impression that maybe the show's writers and producers had already spent their best ideas on the best years of the TV show. Had it been made years earlier… well, we can only wonder what could have been. —Daniel Vancini

Get to Know The Simpsons

"Oh, so they have internet on computers now!" — Homer Simpson

"I'd like to visit that Long Island Place, if only it were real." — Marge Simpson (drinking a Long Island Iced Tea)

"Aren't we forgetting the true meaning of Christmas? You know, the birth of Santa." — Bart Simpson

"If cartoons were meant for adults, they'd put them on in prime time." — Lisa Simpson

"Daddy" — Maggie Simpson

> More Simpsons Characters

Beyond The Simpsons Movie

The Simpsons Toys & Games

The Simpsons Video Games

The Simpsons Books & Comics Store

The Simpsons Automotive

More of the The Simpsons on DVD

The Simpsons TV Series

The Simpsons Movie on Blu-Ray

The Simpsons Treehouse of Horror

The Simpsons Christmas

The Simpsons Gone Wild

The Simpsons Kiss and Tell: The True Story of Their Love

Stills from The Simpsons Movie
I Am Legend [Blu-ray]
Robert Neville is a brilliant scientist but even he could not contain the terrible virus that was unstoppable incurable and man-made. Somehow immune Neville is now the last human survivor in what is left of New York City and maybe the world. For three years Neville has faithfully sent out daily radio messages desperate to find any other survivors who might be out there. But he is not alone. Mutant victims of the plague — The Infected — lurk in the shadows... watching Neville's every move... waiting for him to make a fatal mistake. Perhaps mankind's last best hope Neville is driven by only one remaining mission: to find a way to reverse the effects of the virus using his own immune blood. But he knows he is outnumbered... and quickly running out of time.Format: BLU-RAY DISC Genre: ACTION/ADVENTURE/THRILLERS UPC: 085391176350 Manufacturer No: 1000026365
All About Eve
ALL ABOUT EVE (1950) (DVD MOVIE)
Juno (Two-Disc Special Edition with Digital Copy)
Explore the outrageous "Junoverse" of the year's most talked-about comedy with this 2-Disc Special Edition of Juno-bulging with awesome special features to deliver hours of laughs and tons of feel-good fun!Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) is a cool confident teenager who takes a nine-month detour into adulthood when she's faced with an unplanned pregnancy-and sets out to find the perfect parents for her baby. With the help of her charmingly unassuming boyfriend (Michael Cera) supportive dad (J.K Simmons) and no-nonsense stepmom (Allison Janney) Juno sets her sights on an affluent couple (Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman) longing to adopt their first child.Running Time: 92 minutesFormat: DVD MOVIE Genre: COMEDY/COMING OF AGE Rating: PG-13 UPC: 024543515944 Manufacturer No: 2251594
The Golden Compass [Blu-ray]
In a parallel universe where witches rule the skies and armoured bears are the bravest warriors young Lyra Belacqua journeys from her home among the scholars at Oxford to the far North to save her best friend. Based on the first book in the Carnegie Medal-winning series His Dark Materials.Format: BLU-RAY DISC Genre: SCI-FI/FANTASY/FANTASY UPC: 794043120442 Manufacturer No: 1000038168
Outbreak [Blu-ray]
Studio: Warner Home Video Release Date: 09/02/2008 Rating: R
Iron Man (Ultimate Two-Disc Edition + BD Live) [Blu-ray]
Marvel Iron Man (2-Disc) (Blu-ray) Suit up for action with Robert Downey Jr. in the ultimate adventure movie you've been waiting for, "Iron Man"! When jet-setting genius-industrialist Tony Stark is captured in enemy territory, he builds a high-tech suit of armor to escape. Now, he's on a mission to savethe world as a hero who's built, not born, to be unlike any other. Co-starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and Jeff Bridges, it's a fantastic, high-flying journey that is "hugely entertaining" (Joe Morgenstern, The Wall Street Journal).
The Dark Knight (+ Digital Copy and BD Live) [Blu-ray]
The follow-up to Batman Begins, The Dark Knight reunites director Christopher Nolan and star Christian Bale, who reprises the role of Batman/Bruce Wayne in his continuing war on crime. With the help of Lt. Jim Gordon and District Attorney Harvey Dent, Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. The triumvirate proves effective, but soon find themselves prey to a rising criminal mastermind known as The Joker, who thrusts Gotham into anarchy and forces Batman closer to crossing the fine line between hero and vigilante. Heath Ledger stars as archvillain The Joker, and Aaron Eckhart plays Dent. Maggie Gyllenhaal joins the cast as Rachel Dawes. Returning from Batman Begins are Gary Oldman as Gordon, Michael Caine as Alfred and Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox.
Battlestar Galactica - Season 4.0
Studio: Uni Dist Corp. (mca) Release Date: 01/06/2009 Rating: Nr
The Venture Bros.: Season Three
Studio: Turner Hm Entertainm Release Date: 03/24/2009 Run time: 286 minutes Rating: Nr
Hot Shots!
Jim Abrahams The gang that created Airplane and The Naked Gun sets its sights on Top Gun in this often hilarious spoof starring Charlie Sheen, who previously only inspired laughs with his personal life. He plays Topper Harley, a fighter pilot with an ax to grind: clearing the family name. He gets involved in a relationship with Valerie Golino, a woman with an unusually talented stomach. But his mission is to avenge his father. Lloyd Bridges, late in his career, revealed an aptitude for this kind of silliness, here as a commander who is both incredibly dim and delightfully accident prone. Directed by Jim Abrahams, the film makes fun of a variety of other films as well, from Dances with Wolves to The Fabulous Baker Boys. It was so successful that they all returned in the sequel, Hot Shots! Part Deux. —Marshall Fine
Hot Shots! Part Deux
Jim Abrahams The sequel to the wonderfully wacky Hot Shots! uses Rambo as its model for nonstop send-ups (though director Jim Abrahams can't resist inserting a Saddam Hussein lookalike, given the film's post-Gulf War release). This time, Lloyd Bridges, who was an admiral in the first movie, has become president (take that, Colin Powell!) and needs someone to take care of the threat posed by a certain mustached Middle Eastern dictator. Who better than ever-reliable Topper Harley (Charlie Sheen)? In addition to trying to take out Saddam commando-style, Topper must juggle two women: Valerie Golino, from the original, and CIA babe Brenda Bakke, who knows a thing or two about close-quarters combat. If anything, this may be funnier than the first. —Marshall Fine
The Chronicles of Narnia - The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Andrew Adamson * * * * * C.S. Lewis's classic novel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe makes an ambitious and long-awaited leap to the screen in this modern adaptation. It's a CGI-created world laden with all the special effects and visual wizardry modern filmmaking technology can conjure, which is fine so long as the film stays true to the story that Lewis wrote. And while this film is not a literal translation—it really wants to be so much more than just a kids' movie—for the most part it is faithful enough to the story, and whatever faults it has are happily faults of overreaching, and not of holding back. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tells the story of the four Pevensie children, Lucy, Peter, Edmund, and Susan, and their adventures in the mystical world of Narnia. Sent to the British countryside for their own safety during the blitz of World War II, they discover an entryway into a mystical world through an old wardrobe. Narnia is inhabited by mythical, anthropomorphic creatures suffering under the hundred-year rule of the cruel White Witch (Tilda Swinton, in a standout role). The arrival of the children gives the creatures of Narnia hope for liberation, and all are dragged into the inevitable conflict between evil (the Witch) and good (Aslan the Lion, the Messiah figure, regally voiced by Liam Neeson).

Director (and co-screenwriter) Andrew Adamson, a veteran of the Shrek franchise, knows his way around a fantasy-based adventure story, and he wisely keeps the story moving when it could easily become bogged down and tiresome. Narnia is, of course, a Christian allegory and the symbology is definitely there (as it should be, otherwise it wouldn't be the story Lewis wrote), but audiences aren't knocked over the head with it, and in the hands of another director it could easily have become pedantic. The focus is squarely on the children and their adventures. The four young actors are respectable in their roles, especially considering the size of the project put on their shoulders, but it's the young Georgie Henley as the curious Lucy who stands out. This isn't a film that wildly succeeds, and in the long run it won't have the same impact as the Harry Potter franchise, but it is well done, and kids will get swept up in the adventure. Note: Narnia does contain battle scenes that some parents may consider too violent for younger children. —Dan Vancini
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Three-Disc Collector's Edition+ Digital Copy and BD Live) [Blu-ray]
Andrew Adamson More exciting than The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian continues the movie franchise based on C.S. Lewis' classic fantasy books. The movie picks up where the first left off... sort of. It's been a year since the Pevensie children—Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy (Georgie Henley)—returned to England from Narnia, and they've just about resigned themselves to living their ordinary lives. But just like that, they're once again transported to a fantastical land, but one with a long-abandoned castle. It turns out that they are in Narnia again—and they themselves lived in that castle, but hundreds of years ago in Narnia time. They've been summoned back to help Prince Caspian (Stardust's Ben Barnes, resembling a young, cultured Keanu Reeves), the rightful heir to the throne who's become the target of his power-hungry uncle, King Mraz (Sergio Castellitto). And he's not the only one threatened: Mraz's people, the Telmarines, have pushed all the Narnians—the talking animals, the centaurs and other beasts, the walking trees—to the brink of extinction. Despite some alpha-male bickering, Peter and Caspian agree to fight Mraz alongside the remaining Narnians, including the dwarf Trumpkin (Peter Dinklage) and the swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep (voiced by Eddie Izzard). (Also appearing is Warwick Davis, who was in Willow and the 1989 BBC Prince Caspian.) But of course they most of all miss the noble lion, Aslan, who would have never let this happen to Narnia if he hadn't disappeared. Prince Caspian is epic, evoking memories of Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films. (Some of the battle elements may seem too familiar, but they were in Lewis's book.) And it's appropriate for kids (Reepicheep could have come out of a Shrek movie), though the tone is dark and there is a lot of death, albeit bloodless. After two successful films, Disney and Walden Media's franchise has proved successful enough that many of the characters are scheduled to return in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. —David Horiuchi 

Stills from The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (Click for larger image)
Shrek 2
Andrew Adamson, Kelly Asbury The lovably ugly green ogre returns with his green bride and furry, hooved friend in Shrek 2. The newlywed Shrek and Princess Fiona are invited to Fiona's former kingdom, Far Far Away, to have the marriage blessed by Fiona's parents—which Shrek thinks is a bad, bad idea, and he's proved right: The parents are horrified by their daughter's transformation into an ogress, a fairy godmother wants her son Prince Charming to win Fiona, and a feline assassin is hired to get Shrek out of the way. The computer animation is more detailed than ever, but it's the acting that make the comedy work—in addition to the return of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, and Cameron Diaz, Shrek 2 features the flexible voices of Julie Andrews (Mary Poppins), John Cleese (Monty Python's Flying Circus), Antonio Banderas (Desperado), and Jennifer Saunders (Absolutely Fabulous) as the gleefully wicked fairy godmother. —Bret Fetzer
The Fantasia Anthology
James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Ford Beebe, Norman Ferguson, Jim Handley, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, Ben Sharpsteen Along with Fantasia and Fantasia 2000, the anthology set contains a third disc that examines a segment of both movies in detail. Each segment has an introduction that has experts (including Leonard Maltin), producer Roy E. Disney, or the animators setting up the piece's history. Notes on the music and dozens of design photos are included on all the segments, although others offer more intriguing features. Abandoned animation is shown on many segments, as are a few behind-the-scenes shorts; the most intriguing are experts from Walt Disney's hosted documentaries on how his company made movies. As for the photos, they are awkwardly catalogued and only the most patient of viewers would want to look at all of them. In some segments, though, these images are entertainingly produced as a "story reel," presenting these images—rough animation, sketches, pastel paintings—with the musical accompaniment. For those looking for a more well-rounded view of the films, the two one-hour documentaries on each film's disc lay the groundwork, but none of the anthology looks at how the first film was seen through the years or gives time to anyone who wasn't gung-ho about every element of the films. There is hardly a mention of embarrassing stereotypes that were matted (and still are) out of the "Pastoral" segment, or the intriguing aspect of the film as a '60s icon for the ultimate head-trip. Disney does let their guard down to show sequences that were being readied in 1940 for future editions (including a recently restored short scored to "Clair de Lune"). Most tantalizing is a look at how the special effects were done in the original film. The guide is a scrapbook that one of the technicians kept and was discovered only in 1990. Fans can only hope a reproduction will be made available someday. —Doug Thomas
Gosford Park
Robert Altman Gosford Park finds director Robert Altman in sumptuously fine form indeed. From the opening shots, as the camera peers through the trees at an opulent English country estate, Altman exploits the 1930s period setting and whodunit formula of the film expertly. Aristocrats gather together for a weekend shooting party with their dutiful servants in tow, and the upstairs/downstairs division of the classes is perfectly tailored to Altman's method (as employed in Nashville and Short Cuts) of overlapping bits of dialogue and numerous subplots in order to betray underlying motives and the sins that propel them. Greed, vengeance, snobbery, and lust stir comic unrest as the near dizzying effect of brisk script turns is allayed by perhaps Altman's strongest ensemble to date. First and foremost, Maggie Smith is marvelous as Constance, a dependent countess with a quip for every occasion; Michael Gambon, as the ill-fated host, Sir William McCordle, is one of the most palpably salacious characters ever on screen; Kristin Scott Thomas is perfectly cold yet sexy as Lady Sylvia, Sir William's wife; and Helen Mirren, Emily Watson, and Clive Owen are equally memorable as key characters from the bustling servants' quarters below. Gosford Park manages to be fabulously entertaining while exposing human shortcomings, compromises, and our endless need for confession. —Fionn Meade
Four Rooms
Allison Anders, Robert Rodriguez, Quentin Tarantino This unbearable quartet of stories was written and directed by hot filmmakers Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction), Robert Rodriguez (El Mariachi), Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging), and Alexandre Rockwell (In the Soup), which only proves that even the smart guys can really blow it sometimes. The anthology is linked by the hotel in which all the events are taking place, and by Tim Roth as a bellboy flitting from scene to scene. Nobody overcomes the insufferable air of self-congratulation that permeates this exercise in forced hipness. With Bruce Willis, Madonna, Lili Taylor, Ione Skye, Jennifer Beals, and Antonio Banderas. —Tom Keogh
The Machinist
Brad Anderson (II) As a bleak and chilling mood piece, The Machinist gets under your skin and stays there. Christian Bale threw himself into the title role with such devotion that he shed an alarming 63 pounds to play Trevor Reznik (talk about "starving artist"!), a factory worker who hasn't slept in a year. He's haunted by some mysterious occurrence that turned him into a paranoid husk, sleepwalking a fine line between harsh reality and nightmare fantasy—a state of mind that leaves him looking disturbingly gaunt and skeletal in appearance. (It's no exaggeration to say that Bale resembles a Holocaust survivor from vintage Nazi-camp liberation newsreels.) In a cinematic territory far removed from his 1998 romantic comedy Next Stop Wonderland, director Brad Anderson orchestrates a grimy, nocturnal world of washed-out blues and grays, as Trevor struggles to assemble the clues of his psychological conundrum. With a friendly hooker (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and airport waitress (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón) as his only stable links to sanity, Trevor reaches critical mass and seems ready to implode just as The Machinist reveals its secrets. For those who don't mind a trip to hell with a theremin-laced soundtrack, The Machinist seems primed for long-term status as a cult thriller on the edge. —Jeff Shannon
Logan's Run
Michael Anderson, Ronald Saland If you can stifle the urge to laugh at its pastel unisex costumes and futuristic shopping-mall décor, this extravagant science fiction film from 1976 is still visually fascinating and provocatively entertaining. Set in the year 2274, when ecological disaster has driven civilization to the protection of domed cities, the story revolves around a society that holds a ceremonial death ritual for all citizens who reach the age of 30. In a diseaseless city where free sex is encouraged and old age is virtually unknown, Logan (Michael York) is a "sandman," one who enforces this radical method of population control (but he's about to turn 30 and he doesn't want to die). Escaping from the domed city via a network of underground passages, Logan is joined by another "runner" named Jessica (Jenny Agutter), while his former sandman partner (Richard Jordan) is determined to terminate Logan's rebellion. Using a variety of splendid matte paintings and miniatures, Logan's Run earned a special Oscar for visual effects (images of a long-abandoned Washington, D.C., are particularly impressive), and in addition to fine performances by Jordan and Peter Ustinov, the film features '70s poster babe Farrah Fawcett in a cheesy supporting role. Jerry Goldsmith's semi-electronic score is still one of the prolific composer's best, and Logan's Run remains an interesting example of '70s sci-fi that preceded Star Wars by less than a year. —Jeff Shannon
There Will Be Blood [Blu-ray]
Paul Thomas Anderson A sprawling epic of family faith power and oil THERE WILL BE BLOOD is set on the incendiary frontier of California s turn-of-the-century petroleum boom. The story chronicles the life and times of one Daniel Plainview (Daniel Day-Lewis) who transforms himself from a down-and-out silver miner raising a son on his own into a self-made oil tycoon. When Plainview gets a mysterious tip-off that there s a little town out West where an ocean of oil is oozing out of the ground he heads with his son H.W. (Dillon Freasier) to take their chances in dust-worn Little Boston. In this hardscrabble town where the main excitement centers around the holy roller church of charismatic preacher Eli Sunday (Paul Dano) Plainview and H.W. make their lucky strike. But even as the well raises all of their fortunes nothing will remain the same as conflicts escalate and every human value love hope community belief ambition and even the bond between father and son is imperiled by corruption deception and the flow of oil.System Requirements:Running Time: 158 minutesFormat: BLU-RAY DISC Genre: DRAMA/INNOCENCE LOST Rating: R UPC: 097361374208 Manufacturer No: 137420
AVP - Alien Vs. Predator
Paul W.S. Anderson In delivering PG-13-rated excitement, Alien vs. Predator is an acceptably average science-fiction action thriller with some noteworthy highlights, even if it squanders its opportunity to intelligently combine two popular and R-rated franchises. Rabid fans can justifiably ask "Is that all there is?" after a decade of development hell and eager anticipation, but we're compensated by reasonably logical connections to the Alien legacy and the still-kicking Predator franchise (which hinted at AVP rivalry at the end of Predator 2); some cleverly claustrophobic sets, tense atmosphere and impressive digital effects; and a climactic AVP smackdown that's not half bad. This disposable junk should've been better, but nobody who's seen Mortal Kombat or Resident Evil should be surprised by writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson's lack of imagination. As a brisk, 90-minute exercise in generic thrills, however, Anderson's work is occasionally impressive... right up to his shameless opening for yet another sequel. —Jeff Shannon
Rushmore
Wes Anderson Wes Anderson's follow-up to the quirky Bottle Rocket is a wonderfully unorthodox coming-of-age story that ranks with Harold and Maude and The Graduate in the pantheon of timeless cult classics. Jason Schwartzman (son of Talia Shire and nephew of Francis Coppola) stars as Max Fischer, a 15-year-old attending the prestigious Rushmore Academy on scholarship, where he's failing all of his classes but is the superstar of the school's extracurricular activities (head of the drama club, the beekeeper club, the fencing club...). Possessing boundless confidence and chutzpah, as well as an aura of authority he seems to have been born with, Max finds two unlikely soulmates in his permutations at Rushmore: industrial magnate and Rushmore alumnus Herman Blume (Bill Murray) and first-grade teacher Rosemary Cross (Olivia Williams). His alliance with Blume and crush on Miss Cross, however, are thrown out of kilter by his expulsion from Rushmore, and a budding romance between the two adults that threatens Max's own designs on the lovely schoolteacher.

Never stooping to sentimentality or schmaltz, Anderson and cowriter Owen Wilson have fashioned a wickedly intelligent and wildly funny tale of young adulthood that hits all the right notes in its mix of melancholy and optimism. As played by Schwartzman, Max is both immediately endearing and ferociously irritating: smarter than all the adults around him, with little sense of his shortcomings, he's an unstoppable dynamo who commands grudging respect despite his outlandish projects (including a school play about Vietnam). Murray, as the tycoon who determinedly wages war with Max for the affections of Miss Cross, is a revelation of middle-aged resignation. Disgusted with his family, his life, and himself, he's turned around by both Max's antagonism and Miss Cross's love. Williams is equally affecting as the teacher who still carries a torch for her dead husband, and the superb supporting cast also includes Seymour Cassel as Max's barber father, Brian Cox as the frustrated headmaster of Rushmore, and a hilarious Mason Gamble as Max's young charge. Put this one on your shelf of modern masterpieces. —Mark Englehart
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou - Criterion Collection
Wes Anderson * * * * - In The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, director Wes Anderson takes his familiar stable of actors on a field trip to a fantasy aquarium, complete with stop-motion, candy-striped crabs and rainbow seahorses. And though Anderson does expand his horizons in terms of retro-special effects and a whimsical use of color, fans will otherwise find themselves in well-charted waters. As The Life Aquatic opens, Zissou (Bill Murray), a self-involved, Jacques Cousteau-like filmmaker, has just released a documentary depicting the death of his best friend Esteban, who was eaten by some sort of sea creature—possibly a jaguar shark. Zissou's troubles also include his waning popularity with the public, and a nemesis (Jeff Goldblum) who hogs up all the grant money. Hope arrives in the form of Ned Plimpton (Owen Wilson), an amiable Kentuckian who may be Zissou's son. Despite his lack of enthusiasm for fatherhood, Zissou welcomes Ned—and Ned in turn saves Zissou's new documentary (in which he seeks revenge on the jaguar shark) in more ways than one. 

One of Wes Anderson's greatest achievements as a director to date has been launching the autumnal melancholy phase of Bill Murray's career, starting with Rushmore in 1998, and Murray delivers a similarly comedic yet low-key performance here. Unfortunately, Zissou is one of the few characters in this ensemble to achieve multi-dimensionality. Even co-star Wilson doesn't get to develop Ned much beyond Noble Southerner, and he ends up seeming more like a prop for illustrating Zissou's emotional development rather than his own man. The Life Aquatic probably won't be remembered as a great film, but it is still one that no Anderson (or Murray) fan can afford to miss.—Leah Weathersby
The World Is Not Enough
Michael Apted In his 19th screen outing, Ian Fleming's superspy is once again caught in the crosshairs of a self-created dilemma: as the longest-running feature-film franchise, James Bond is an annuity his producers want to protect, yet the series' consciously formulaic approach frustrates any real element of surprise beyond the rote application of plot twists or jump cuts to shake up the audience. This time out, credit 007's caretakers for making some visible attempts to invest their principal characters with darker motives—and blame them for squandering The World Is Not Enough's initial promise by the final reel.

By now, Bond pictures are as elegantly formal as a Bach chorale, and this one opens on an unusually powerful note. A stunning pre-title sequence reaches beyond mere pyrotechnics to introduce key plot elements as the action leaps from Bilbao to London. Bond 5.0, Pierce Brosnan, undercuts his usually suave persona with a darker, more brutal edge largely absent since Sean Connery departed. Equally tantalizing are our initial glimpses of Bond's nemesis du jour, Renard (Robert Carlyle), and imminent love interest, Elektra King (Sophie Marceau), both atypically complex characters cast with seemingly shrewd choices, and directed by the capable Michael Apted. The story's focus on post-Soviet geopolitics likewise starts off on a savvy note, before being overtaken by increasingly Byzantine plot twists, hidden motives, and reversals of loyalty superheated by relentless (if intermittently perfunctory) action sequences.

Indeed, the procession of perils plays like a greatest hits medley, save for a nifty sequence involving airborne buzz saws that's as enjoyable as it is preposterous. Bond's grimmer demeanor, while preferable to the smirk that eventually swallowed Roger Moore whole, proves wearying, unrelieved by any true wit. The underlying psychoses that propel Renard and Elektra eventually unravel into unconvincing melodrama, while Bond is supplied with a secondary love object, Denise Richards, who's even more improbable as a nuclear physicist. Ultimately, this World is not enough despite its better intentions. —Sam Sutherland
Appleseed (Limited Collector's Edition with Metal Case)
Shinji Aramaki The 2004 Appleseed feature is a reworking of the earlier video based on the manga by Masamune Shirow (Ghost in the Shell). In 2131, most of humanity has withdrawn to the glittering city of Olympus after a devastating war. When the curvaceous Deunan Knute comes to Olympus, she encounters her former comrade Briareos, now a cyborg, and the lovely android Hitomi. The fate of Hitomi, Olympus, and humanity rest on the lost "Appleseed" technology that Deunan's mother helped to develop. A standard series of chases, mecha battles, and confrontations leads to a predictable ending. When the original Appleseedappeared in 1988, it felt like a summary of anime's past, while Akira pointed the way to the future. This new version feels like a mishmash of Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Jin-Roh, Evangelion, and other, more exciting works. The motion-capture CG is typically weightless, and the mecha look oddly squat. (Rated R: violence) —Charles Solomon
What the "Bleep" Do We Know!? - Down the Rabbit Hole Quantum
William Arntz, Betsy Chasse, Mark Vicente The unlikeliest cult hit of 2004 was What the (Bleep) Do We Know?, a lecture on mysticism and science mixed into a sort-of narrative. Marlee Matlin stars in the dramatic thread, about a sourpuss photographer who begins to question her perceptions. Interviews with quantum physics experts and New Age authors are cut into this story, offering a vaguely convincing (and certainly mind-provoking) theory about... well, actually, it sounds a lot like the Power of Positive Thinking, when you get down to it. Talking heads (not identified until film's end) include JZ Knight, who appears in the movie channeling Ramtha, the ancient sage she claims communicates through her (other speakers are also associated with Knight's organization). What she says actually makes pretty good common sense—Ramtha—Ramtha's wiggier notions are not included—and would be easy to accept were it not being credited to a 35,000-year-old mystic from Atlantis. —Robert Horton
Gandhi
Richard Attenborough A critical masterpiece, GANDHI is an intriguing story about activism, politics, religious tolerance and freedom. But at the center of it all is an extraor- dinary man who fought for a nonviolent, peaceful existence, and set an entire nation free. Winner of 8 Academy Awards® including Best Picture, Best Director (Lord Richard Attenborough) and Best Actor (Sir Ben Kingsley), GANDHI’s highly acclaimed cast also includes Candice Bergen, Edward Fox, Sir John Gielgud, Roshan Seth and Martin Sheen.

The extras include more than 90 minutes of new material, including interviews with director Lord Richard Attenborough; actors Geraldine James, Saeed Jaffrey, and Edward Fox; Diana Hawkins (Director of Publicity), Terry Clegg (Executive in charge of production), Billy Williams (Cinematographer) and Stuart Craig (Production Designer). The DVD includes a Director’s commentary with Attenborough, who also filmed a personal introduction to the film. The featurettes include In Search of Gandhi, Reflections on Ben, Madeleine Slade: An Englishwoman Abroad, The Funeral, Shooting an Epic In India, Looking Back, Designing Gandhi (3 mini featurettes) and From the Director’s Chair (2 mini featurettes).
Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs
Peter Avanzino The thrilling conclusion to Futurama: Benders Big Score.Bender and the planet express crew must contend with a massive cosmic team that sends the world into panic.System Requirements:Running Time: 90 minutesFormat: DVD MOVIE Genre: ANIMATION/CARTOON NETWORK Rating: NR UPC: 024543520931 Manufacturer No: 2252093
Futurama: Into the Wild Green Yonder
Peter Avanzino Studio: Tcfhe Release Date: 02/24/2009 Run time: 88 minutes Rating: Nr
WarGames
John Badham Cute but silly, this 1983 cautionary fantasy stars Matthew Broderick as a teenage computer genius who hacks into the Pentagon's defense system and sets World War III into motion. All the fun is in the film's set-up, as Broderick befriends Ally Sheedy and starts the international crisis by pretending while online to be the Soviet Union. After that, it's not hard to predict what's going to happen: government agents swoop in, but the story ends up in the "hands" of machines talking to one another. Thus we're stuck with flashing lights, etc. John Badham (Saturday Night Fever) directs in strict potboiler mode. Kids still like this movie, though. The DVD release has a widescreen presentation, theatrical trailer, Dolby sound, director commentary, optional English, French and Spanish subtitles. —Tom Keogh
Short Circuit
John Badham John Badham's family-oriented adventure comedy, though obviously hatched in the wake of E.T. and Star Wars, manages to create its own identity through a sweet tone and an affectionate sense of fun. Military robot Number 5, a well-armed killing machine, is zapped by lightning during a test and emerges with a consciousness, curiosity, a wacky sense of humor, and a new peace-loving philosophy. Ally Sheedy (who debuted in Badham's hit WarGames) is the animal lover whose home is sanctuary for a zoo-full of strays and who adopts the adolescent robot. Steve Guttenberg is the goofy but reclusive robotics designer who goes off in search of his creation to save him from the gun-happy army. The mix of gentle slapstick and innocent romance makes for a harmless family comedy. It veers toward the terminally cute, what with 5's hyperactive antics and E.T.-ish voice, and the mangled grammar of Guttenberg's East Indian sidekick (Fisher Stevens) threatens to become offensive, but Badham's breezy direction keeps the film on track. Sheedy and Guttenberg deliver spirited and engaging performances, but most importantly the robot emerges as a real person. Give credit to designer Syd Mead, an army of puppeteers and robotics operators, and the cartoony voice of Tim Blaney: Number 5 is alive. —Sean Axmaker
Doom [HD DVD]
Andrzej Bartkowiak Grab your BFG and get ready to kick some Martian-demon butt in Doom, another entry in the increasingly crowded videogame-to-movie genre. The Rock plays Sarge, the commander of a squad of Marines sent to investigate a disturbance at a scientific research facility on Mars. Among the squad is John Grimm (Karl Urban, who played Eomer in The Lord of the Rings), who turns out to have had a previous relationship with Samantha (Rosamund Pike, Die Another Day), the scientist who's accompanying the Marines in order to retrieve some vital data from the facility. Based on id Software's legendary first-person shooter, Doom tries its best to look like a game, with dark, angled corridors, ferocious creatures appearing out of nowhere, and a variety of lethal weapons that will, like the aforementioned BFG, warm the cockles of a gamer's heart. There's also one memorable sequence that actually turns the movie into a first-person shooter; the good news is that in the context of the whole film, it's not quite as goofy as it might have been. And that's not a bad frame of reference for the film in general. Considering the game-to-movie field includes such duds as Wing Commander, if you go into Doom with low expectations, you'll probably find it a surprisingly respectable horror/sci-fi thriller in the Resident Evil vein (including its somewhat obligatory subplot of corporate wrongdoing). Also in its favor is that it's unabashedly R-rated, for the extreme gore that is a trademark of the game. After all, the purpose of the movie is to pack scares and thrills into a setting that gamers will quickly recognize. In that sense, it qualifies as a success. —David Horiuchi
The Rock
Michael Bay Between his high-octane debut, Bad Boys, and 1998's wannabe blockbuster Armageddon, hotshot director Michael Bay forged his dubious reputation with this crowd-pleasing action extravaganza. In it a psychotically disgruntled war hero (Ed Harris) seizes the island prison of Alcatraz and threatens to wage chemical warfare against nearby San Francisco unless the government publicly recognizes the men who were killed under Harris's top-secret command. Nicolas Cage plays the biochemist who teams up with the only man ever to have escaped from Alcatraz (Sean Connery) in an attempt to foil Harris's terrorist scheme. As one might expect, what follows is an action-packed barrage of bullets, bodies, and climactic confrontations, replete with enough plot contrivances to give even the most jaded action fan cause for alarm. It's a load of hooey, but the cast is obviously having a grand old time, and there's enough wit to make the recycled action sequences tolerable. If you're ordering this movie on DVD, be careful with the volume knobs on your home-theater sound systems, because The Rock could cause partial hearing loss and structural damage to your home. —Jeff Shannon
The Island
Michael Bay When you add up all the best things about The Island, you might just conclude that there's hope yet for Hollywood's most critically reviled hit-maker, Michael Bay. Recruited by Steven Spielberg to direct this lavish and often breathtaking sci-fi action thriller, Bay rises to the occasion with an ambitious production that is, by his standards (and compared to Bay's earlier hits like The Rock and Armageddon), surprisingly intelligent as it explores the repercussions of cloning in a sealed-off society where humans are cultivated for spare parts, surrogate parenthood, and full-body replacements for wealthy clientele. But when two of the clones (Ewan McGregor, Scarlett Johanssen) begin to question their fate and the motives of their keepers, they escape into the real world and The Island becomes just another Michael Bay action extravaganza, albeit an impressively exciting one. With elaborate chase scenes and a high-tech feast of CGI to dazzle the eye, The Island recycles much of the plot from 1979's Clonus while borrowing elements from Logan's Run, Gattaca and Minority Report, and while it's not as smartly conceived as those earlier films, there's no denying that, in many ways, it's Bay's best film to date. —Jeff Shannon
Transformers [HD DVD]
Michael Bay "I bought a car. Turned out to be an alien robot. Who knew?" deadpans Sam Witwicky, hero and human heart of Michael Bay's rollicking robot-smackdown fest, Transformers. Witwicky (the sweetly nerdy Shia LaBeouf, channeling a young John Cusack) is the perfect counterpoint to the nearly nonstop exhilarating action. The plot is simple: an alien civil war (the Autobots vs. the evil Decepticons) has spilled onto Earth, and young Sam is caught in the fray by his newly purchased souped-up Camaro. Which has a mind—and identity, as a noble-warrior robot named Bumblebee—of its own. The effects, especially the mind-blowing transformations of the robots into their earthly forms and back again, are stellar.

Fans of the earlier film and TV series will be thrilled at this cutting-edge incarnation, but this version should please all fans of high-adrenaline action. Director Bay gleefully salts the movie with homages to pop-culture touchstones like Raiders of the Lost Ark, King Kong, and the early technothriller WarGames. The actors, though clearly all supporting those kickass robots, are uniformly on-target, including the dashing Josh Duhamel as a U.S. Army sergeant fighting an enemy he never anticipated; Jon Voight, as a tough yet sympathetic Secretary of Defense in over his head; and John Turturro, whose special agent manages to be confidently unctuous, even stripped to his undies. But the film belongs to Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, and the dastardly Megatron—and the wicked stunts they collide in all over the globe. Long live Transformers! —A.T. Hurley

More Than Meets the Eye

The Original Movie

Transformers Mania

The Soundtrack

Transformers Image Gallery (click for larger image)
Star Trek The Next Generation - The Complete Seasons 1-7
Gabrielle Beaumont, Robert Becker, Timothy Bond, David Carson, Chip Chalmers, Richard Compton, Robert Iscove, Winrich Kolbe, Peter Lauritson, Robert Legato, Kim Manners, Gates McFadden, Marvin V. Rush, Joseph L. Scanlan, Larry Shaw, Alexander Singer, Michael Vejar, Jonathan West, Robert Wiemer After Star Wars and the successful big-screen Star Trek adventures, it's perhaps not so surprising that Gene Roddenberry managed to convince purse string-wielding studio heads in the 1980s that a Next Generation would be both possible and profitable. But the political climate had changed considerably since the 1960s, the Cold War had wound down, and we were now living in the Age of Greed. To be successful a second time, Star Trek had to change too.

A writer's guide was composed with which to sell and define where the Trek universe was in the 24th Century. The United Federation of Planets was a more appealing ideology to an America keen to see where the Reagan/Gorbachev faceoff was taking them. Starfleet's meritocratic philosophy had always embraced all races and species. Now Earth's utopian history, featuring the abolishment of poverty, was brandished prominently and proudly. The new Enterprise, NCC 1701-D, was no longer a ship of war but an exploration vessel carrying families. The ethical and ethnical flagship also carried a former enemy (the Klingon Worf, played by Michael Dorn), and its Chief Engineer (Geordi LaForge) was blind and black. From every politically correct viewpoint, Paramount executives thought the future looked just swell!

Roddenberry's feminism now contrasted a pilot episode featuring ship's Counsellor Troi (Marina Sirtis) in a mini-skirt with her ongoing inner strengths and also those of Dr. Crusher (Gates McFadden) and the short-lived Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby). The arrival of Whoopi Goldberg in season 2 as mystic barkeep Guinan is a great example of the good the original Trek did for racial groups—Goldberg has stated that she was inspired to become an actress in large part through seeing Nichelle Nichols' Uhura. Her credibility as an actress helped enormously alongside the strong central performances of Patrick Stewart (Captain Picard), Jonathan Frakes (First Officer Will Riker), and Brent Spiner (Data) in defining another wholly believable environment once again populated with well-defined characters. Star Trek, it turned out, did not depend for its success on any single group of actors.

Like its predecessor in the 1960s, TNG pioneered visual effects on TV, making it an increasingly jaw-dropping show to look at. And thanks also to the enduring success of the original show, phasers, tricorders, communicators and even phase inverters were already familiar to most viewers. But while technology was a useful tool in most crises, it now frequently seemed to be the cause of them too, as the show's writers continually warned about the dangers of over-reliance on technology (the Borg were the ultimate expression of this maxim). The word "technobabble" came to describe a weakness in many TNG scripts, which sacrificed the social and political allegories of the original and relied instead upon invented technological faults and their equally fictitious resolutions to provide drama within the Enterprise's self-contained society. (The holodeck's safety protocol override seemed to be next to the light switch given the number of times crew members were trapped within.) This emphasis on scientific jargon appealed strongly to an audience who were growing up for the first time in the late 1980s with the home computer—and gave rise to the clichéd image of the nerdy Trek fan.

Like in the original Trek, it was in the stories themselves that much of the show's success is to be found. That pesky Prime Directive kept moral dilemmas afloat ("Justice"/"Who Watches the Watchers?"/"First Contact"). More "what if" scenarios came out of time-travel episodes ("Cause and Effect"/"Time's Arrow"/"Yesterday's Enterprise"). And there were some episodes that touched on the political world, such as "The Arsenal of Freedom" questioning the supply of arms, "Chain of Command" decrying the torture of political prisoners and "The Defector", which was called "The Cuban Missile Crisis of The Neutral Zone" by its writer. The show ran for more than twice as many episodes as its progenitor and therefore had more time to explore wider ranging issues. But the choice of issues illustrates the change in the social climate that had occurred with the passing of a couple of decades. "Angel One" covered sexism;"The Outcast" was about homosexuality;"Symbiosis"—drug addiction;"The High Ground"—terrorism;—terrorism;"Ethics—terrorism;"Ethics"—euthanasia;—euthanasia;"Darmok—euthanasia;"Darmok"—language barriers; and "Journey's End"—displacement of Indians from their homeland. It would have been unthinkable for the original series to have tackled most of these.

TNG could so easily have been a failure, but it wasn't. It survived a writer's strike in its second year, the tragic death of Roddenberry just after Trek's 25th anniversary in 1991, and plenty of competition from would-be rival franchises. Yes, its maintenance of an optimistic future was appealing, but the strong stories and readily identifiable characters ensured the viewers' continuing loyalty. —Paul Tonks
Night Watch
Timur Bekmambetov Night Watch is that rare film that—like The Matrix—is not only visually dazzling but creates an intriguing, seductive, and thrilling alternative world. A young man named Anton, after dabbling in black magic to bring back the wife who left him, discovers that the world is populated by fantastical Others (vampires, shape-shifters, witches, and more) who have chosen sides—Light or Dark—in an epic battle. A truce has been declared; both sides watch the other to ensure the truce is maintained. But a prophecy has predicted that a powerful Other will tilt the balance, and Anton—who is himself an Other—finds himself crucial to the prophecy's fulfillment. There's no question that Night Watch has weaknesses. Numerous plot holes get glossed over by pell-mell pacing, the visual conception of the apocalyptic battle between Light and Dark is curiously pedestrian (a bunch of knights fighting a bunch of guys in fur with swords—what happened to their various powers?), and more—but, much like similar problems with The Matrix, it doesn't matter.

The alternative world Night Watch presents is so rich with possibilities that it takes on a life of its own, both as an imaginative universe and as a vivid metaphor for the moral complexities of our own lives—for example, though the forces of Light claim to be good, their often brutal actions call their virtue into question, and the forces of Dark make some compelling moral arguments on the topic. The movie is so overstuffed with ideas that many don't get fleshed out, but that only contributes to the sense of vitality and unexplored dimensions. Even the subtitles are used creatively. The impending sequels (this is the first film of a trilogy) may—like The Matrix—take all the stimulating possibilities Night Watch raises and drag them into the toilet, but for the moment, this is the sort of electric excitement that blockbuster movies promise but so rarely deliver. —Bret Fetzer
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Alan J.W. Bell The production values aren't the greatest here, but this adaptation does capture some of the ebullient, hilarious anarchy of Douglas Adams's book. Arthur Dent discovers that his friend, Ford Prefect, isn't human at all but an alien on assignment, writing for the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Many of Adams's delicious asides are dropped off here, like the woman who figures out the meaning of life right at the moment that she gets blown up with the rest of the Earth, but it retains what it can. Sure, the book was better, and the realization of Zaphod Beeblebox and Trillian are, well, just different, but it's a great introduction to the series for the uninitiated. —Keith Simanton
The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc
Luc Besson 1999 may be remembered as the year of Joan of Arc: NBC created a miniseries in her honor, Carl Dreyer's long-lost The Passion of Joan of Arc was discovered in a mental hospital, and Facets re-released Jacques Rivette's Joan the Maid. Luc Besson rounds out the corpus with his stylistic and vaguely heretical grand-scale feature, The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc.

Besson (La Femme Nikita, The Fifth Element) challenges established notions about the Maid of Orleans as he creates a decidedly more human heroine than have previous biopics. The story line is the same—a young, illiterate peasant girl convinces the dauphin of France to give her an army, and she leads them to victory in Orleans, only to be burned at the stake for heresy—but Milla Jovovich, in the title role, is a woman possessed. Her influences are less than heavenly; as a child she witnesses the murder of her sister by the English, a death caused by the sister's giving her hiding place to young Joan, which causes an intense desire for revenge. Yes, God still speaks to Joan, but even this is undermined, as Dustin Hoffman, playing The Conscience, questions her motives.

Cinematically, The Messenger is stunning, with fantastical sequences of Joan in communication with higher powers. Yet the graphic violence (scenes include random decapitation and a dog gnawing on a body); the uneven accents, which make it difficult to tell who is fighting on which side; and the rewriting of lore may make this version of Joan of Arc appeal only to Besson fans. Jovovich is convincing, and while at times the film may drag (at times you wish they'd hurry up and burn her), it is a remarkable and insightful retelling of a well-known piece of history. —Jenny Brown
The Fifth Element (Remastered) [Blu-ray]
Luc Besson Sony Pictures The Fifth Element (Blu-ray)

New York cab driverKorben Dallas didn't mean to be a hero. But he just picked up the kind of fare that only comes along every five thousand years a perfect beauty, a perfect being, a perfect weapon. Now, together, theymust save the world. Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, and Gary Oldman star in acclaimed director Luc Besson's outrageous sci-fi adventure, an extravagantly styled tale of good against evil set in an unbelievable twenty-third century world.
The Secret of NIMH
Don Bluth In his book, Robert C. O'Brien called his brave widow mouse "Mrs. Frisby," but Disney escapee animator Don Bluth must have thought kids would laugh the wrong way at that. They renamed her "Mrs. Brisby" for NIMH. That acronym stands for the National Institute of Mental Health, and the rats that live near Mrs. Brisby came from NIMH—they have strange ways. But they're the only ones who can save her house and her children, so Brisby seeks them out with the help of a humorous crow (Dom DeLuise). The magic gets laid on a little thick but this is Don Bluth's most successful attempt to achieve a complete, sincere, animated film. It's often forgotten, but it's a true surprise and a rare treat in the vast wasteland of insubstantial children's fare. —Keith Simanton
Alone in the Dark
Uwe Boll As another entry in the video-game-to-movie genre, Alone in the Dark certainly delivers in terms of its splattering gore and number of things that get shot or blown up with the kind of arsenal familiar to any fan of games that allow the player to shoot or blow things up. You could argue that some game-based movies have been big successes—gauged either by audience appeal or box office scores. Even though a lot of hardcore gamers probably won't care, Alone in the Dark is not of that ilk. At least the Resident Evil and Tomb Raider series had some interesting characters and locations (not to mention sexy stars). But Alone in the Dark is crippled from the first by a mundane setting of caves, laboratories, and street-fighting backgrounds as well as a cast (including Christian Slater, Stephen Dorff, and Tara Reid) that couldn't be less interested in the overly complex plot. The absurdity starts right away with a long expository pre-title text crawl that carries all the gravitas of a "Monty Python" sketch intro. The gist of the plot has a group of scientists, special-ops military guys, and paranormal freaks and geeks investigating evil creatures that were once harnessed by an extinct subset race of Native Americans. Unleashed again, the creatures must be destroyed, which is where the video game blasting and attendant gore comes into play. Considering the cult following the game series carries (the first installment is over a decade old), Alone in the Dark could find a nice little life on DVD, but theater-goers might discover the title's a little too literal. —Ted Fry
Repo! The Genetic Opera [Blu-ray]
Darren Lynn Bousman Studio: Lions Gate Home Ent. Release Date: 01/20/2009 Run time: 90 minutes Rating: R
Slumdog Millionaire [Blu-ray]
Danny Boyle, Loveleen Tandan Studio: Tcfhe Release Date: 03/31/2009 Rating: R
Demolition Man
Marco Brambilla Years before the fast-food chain hired a talking chihuahua as its official spokeshound, Taco Bell got some high-profile product placement in this dopey thriller set in the year 2032, when the sprawling megacity of "San Angeles" has banned violence and profanity, and where virtually all the restaurants are Taco Bells. (So much for democracy!) Sylvester Stallone plays an ex-cop who's been thawed out after 36 years of imprisonment for manslaughter, and Wesley Snipes plays his nemesis who also emerges from deep-freeze and proceeds to wreak havoc. It's not nearly as funny as the similarly plotted Austin Powers,; but this special-effects-laden comedy-thriller does have a few highlights, including the pre-stardom Sandra Bullock as the cop-trainee who teaches Stallone proper behavior (and sexual etiquette) in the future's conservative society. Co-starring is Rob Schneider as a frantic sidekick who matches Stallone's one-liners with idiotic wit. —Jeff Shannon
Pirates of Silicon Valley
Martyn Burke This dramatization of the tangled history of Apple Computer and Microsoft, based on a book by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine, hits enough of the right notes to make its failures all the more frustrating. The script follows the entwined paths of Apple's Steve Jobs and Microsoft's Bill Gates with a pointed sense of the cultural divide between the hip, self-absorbed Apple cofounder and the brilliant alpha geek behind Microsoft's eventual software empire, contrasting the Mac's countercultural underpinnings with the PC's more strait-laced origins. But Pirates of Silicon Valley seemingly can't decide whether it wants to be a serious-minded history of these key figures in the personal computer revolution or a trashy wallow in the more ignoble foibles of its principals. As a result, it falls short of exacting history while never achieving the guilty pleasure it might have.

If Gates has become synonymous with corporate conquest at its most striking, Pirates' interest lies more with Jobs, given a nervous energy and flashes of adolescent selfishness by Noah Wyle, who benefits from a reasonable physical resemblance to the Apple chief. Eyewear and a comb-over do nearly as well for Anthony Michael Hall, who also grafts some of Bill Gates's better-known mannerisms onto his performance and renders Gates as a smart if socially maladroit entrepreneur who, like Jobs, provides the ambition and business savvy to exploit his partner's computing talents. There are a few fanciful touches (Ballmer and Wozniak become Greek choruses, addressing the viewer as they comment on the principals), but the story plays out in straightforward fashion. It's tantalizing to consider how the Apple/PC melodrama might have fared with an edgier, more openly satirical script. —Sam Sutherland
Batman
Tim Burton Thanks to the ambitious vision of director Tim Burton, the blockbuster hit of 1989 delivers the goods despite an occasionally spotty script, giving the caped crusader a thorough overhaul in keeping with the crime fighter's evolution in DC Comics. Michael Keaton strikes just the right mood as the brooding "Dark Knight" of Gotham City; Kim Basinger plays Gotham's intrepid reporter Vicki Vale; and Jack Nicholson goes wild as the maniacal and scene-stealing Joker, who plots a takeover of the city with his lethal Smilex gas. Triumphant Oscar-winning production design by the late Anton Furst turns Batman into a visual feast, and Burton brilliantly establishes a darkly mythic approach to Batman's legacy. Danny Elfman's now-classic score propels the action with bold, muscular verve. —Jeff Shannon
Batman Returns
Tim Burton The first Batman sequel takes a wicked turn with the villainous exploits of the freakish and mean-spirited Penguin (Danny DeVito), whose criminal collaboration with evil tycoon Max Shreck (Christopher Walken) threatens to drain Gotham City of its energy supply. As if that weren't enough, Batman (Michael Keaton) has his hands full with the vengeful Catwoman (Michelle Pfeiffer), who turns out to be a lot more dangerous than a kitten with a whip. As with the first Batman feature, director Tim Burton brings his distinct visual style to the frantic action, but this time there's a darker malevolence lurking beneath all that extraordinary production design. —Jeff Shannon
Beetlejuice
Tim Burton Before making Batman, director Tim Burton and star Michael Keaton teamed up for this popular black comedy about a young couple (Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin) whose premature death leads them to a series of wildly bizarre afterlife exploits. As ghosts in their own New England home, they're faced with the challenge of scaring off the pretentious new owners (Catherine O'Hara and Jeffrey Jones), whose daughter (Winona Ryder) has an affinity for all things morbid. Keaton plays the mischievous Beetlejuice, a freelance "bio-exorcist" who's got an evil agenda behind his plot to help the young undead newlyweds. The film is a perfect vehicle for Burton's visual style and twisted imagination, with clever ideas and gags packed into every scene. Beetlejuice is also a showcase for Keaton, who tackles his title role with maniacal relish and a dark edge of menace. —Jeff Shannon
Edward Scissorhands (Aniv Sen)
Tim Burton Edward Scissorhands achieves the nearly impossible feat of capturing the delicate flavor of a fable or fairy tale in a live-action movie. The story follows a young man named Edward (Johnny Depp), who was created by an inventor (Vincent Price, in one of his last roles) who died before he could give the poor creature a pair of human hands. Edward lives alone in a ruined Gothic castle that just happens to be perched above a pastel-colored suburb inhabited by breadwinning husbands and frustrated housewives straight out of the 1950s. One day, Peg (Dianne Wiest), the local Avon lady, comes calling. Finding Edward alone, she kindly invites him to come home with her, where she hopes to help him with his pasty complexion and those nasty nicks he's given himself with his razor-sharp fingers. Soon Edward's skill with topiary sculpture and hair design make him popular in the neighborhood—but the mood turns just as swiftly against the outsider when he starts to feel his own desires, particularly for Peg's daughter Kim (Winona Ryder). Most of director Tim Burton's movies (such as Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Batman) are visual spectacles with elements of fantasy, but Edward Scissorhands is more tender and personal than the others. Edward's wild black hair is much like Burton's, suggesting that the character represents the director's own feelings of estrangement and co-option. Johnny Depp, making his first successful leap from TV to film, captures Edward's childlike vulnerability even while his physical posture evokes horror icons like the vampire in Nosferatu and the sleepwalker in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Classic horror films, at their heart, feel a deep sympathy for the monsters they portray; simply and affectingly, Edward Scissorhands lays that heart bare. —Bret Fetzer
Big Fish
Tim Burton After a string of mediocre movies, director Tim Burton regains his footing as he shifts from macabre fairy tales to Southern tall tales. Big Fish twines in and out of the oversized stories of Edward Bloom, played as a young man by Ewan McGregor (Moulin Rouge, Down with Love) and as a dying father by Albert Finney (Tom Jones). Edward's son Will (Billy Crudup, Almost Famous) sits by his father's bedside but has little patience with the old man's fables, because he feels these stories have kept him from knowing who his father really is. Burton dives into Bloom's imagination with zest, sending the determined young man into haunted woods, an idealized Southern town, a traveling circus, and much more. The result is sweet but—thanks to the director's dark and clever sensibility—never saccharine. Also featuring Jessica Lange, Alison Lohman, Helena Bonham Carter, Danny DeVito, and Steve Buscemi. —Bret Fetzer
Mars Attacks!
Tim Burton It's enlightening to view Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! as his twisted satire of the blockbuster film Independence Day, which was released earlier the same year, although the movies were in production simultaneously. Burton's eye-popping, schlock tribute to 1950s UFO movies actually plays better on video than it did in theaters. The idea of invading aliens ray gunning the big-name movie stars in the cast is a cleverly subversive one, and the bulb-headed, funny-sounding animated Martians are pretty nifty, but it all seemed to be spread thin on the big screen. On video, however, the movie's kooky humor seems a bit more concentrated. The Earth actors (most of whom get zapped or kidnapped for alien science experiments) include Jack Nicholson, Glenn Close, Annette Bening, Pierce Brosnan, Danny DeVito, Martin Short, Sarah Jessica Parker, Rod Steiger, Michael J. Fox, Lukas Haas, Jim Brown, Tom Jones, and Pam Grier. The digital video disc features an isolated track for Danny Elfman's score, as well as a few other clever and nasty little Martian surprises. —Jim Emerson
The Batman Legacy, All 4 Feature-length Films; Batman Forever, Batman, Batman Returns, Batman & Robin; a Set of 4 Dvd's
Tim Burton, Joel Schumacher For fans and newcomers, this boxed set holds a great collection, including all four great movies. The first in the series, Batman (1989), and arguably the best of the four movies, exudes the moodiness of the Dark Knight's character. Tim Burton's direction and Michael Keaton's rendition of Batman are an electrifying combo. Together they capture the sinister atmosphere of Gotham City and Batman's darkness. Jack Nicholson as the fiendish Joker and Kim Basinger as the resourceful and gorgeous Vicki Vale lend their charm. Three years later, in 1992, Burton and Keaton reunited for Batman Returns. This time our pointy-eared hero has to combat two villains: Danny DeVito as the disturbed and freaky Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. In Batman Forever (1995), Joel Schumacher gave his direction to the story with Val Kilmer under the cape. Kilmer keeps the moodiness but adds a little panache to his rendition. His archenemies this time are the Riddler (Jim Carrey) and Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones). Luckily, he enlists the help of the Boy Wonder, Robin (Chris O'Donnell). The final movie in the series, Batman & Robin, is great eye candy, and this time Schumacher returns with George Clooney as the leading man and Chris O'Donnell again as Robin. Together Batman and Robin battle the icy Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), with a little help from Batgirl (Alicia Silverstone). Delve into the Gotham City world with the Dark Knight to protect you, and don't forget to make lots of popcorn for this Batman marathon. —Samantha Allen Storey
True Lies
James Cameron From The Terminator to Titanic, you can always rely on writer-director James Cameron to show you something you've never seen on the big screen before. The guy may not consistently pen the most scintillating dialogue in the world (and, especially in this movie, he doesn't seem to have a particularly high regard for women), but as a director of kinetic, push-the-envelope action sequences, he is in a class by himself. In True Lies, the highlight is a breathtaking third-act jet and car chase through the Florida Keys. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a covert intelligence agent whose wife of 15 years (Jamie Lee Curtis) finally finds out that he's not really a computer salesman and who becomes mixed up in a case involving nuclear arms smuggling. Tom Arnold is surprisingly funny and engaging as Schwarzenegger's longtime spy partner, and Bill Paxton is a smarmy used-car salesman (is that redundant?) whom Arnold thinks is having an affair with his wife. Purely in terms of spectacular action and high-tech hardware, True Lies is a blast. —Jim Emerson
The Terminator
James Cameron This is the film that cemented Schwarzenegger's spot in the action-brawn firmament, and it was well deserved. He's chilling as the futuristic cyborg who kills without fear, without love, without mercy. James Cameron's story and direction are pared to the bone and all the more creepy. But don't overlook the contributions of Linda Hamilton, who more than holds her own as the Terminator's would-be victim, Sarah Connor—thus creating, along with Sigourney Weaver in Alien, a new generation of rugged, clear-thinking female action stars. It's surprising how well this film holds up, and how its minimalist, malevolent violence is actually way scarier than that of its far more expensive, more effects-laden sequel. —Anne Hurley
T2 - Extreme DVD
James Cameron After he pushed the envelope of computer-generated special effects in The Abyss, director James Cameron turned this hotly anticipated sequel to Terminator into a well-written, action-packed showcase for advanced special effects and for one of the most invincible villains ever imagined. Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a legitimate sequel: there's more story to tell about a hulking, leather-clad android (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who arrives from the future to protect a rebellious teenager and future leader (Edward Furlong) from being killed by the tenacious T-1000 robot (Robert Patrick), whose liquid-metal construction makes him seemingly unstoppable. The fate of the future lies in the balance, with Linda Hamilton (who would later marry her director) reprising her role as the rugged woman whose son will change the course of history. The digital video disc of this blockbuster hit is presented with a digitally mastered THX soundtrack. —Jeff Shannon
Aliens
James Cameron Aliens is one of the few cases of a sequel that far surpassed the original. Sigourney Weaver returns as Ripley, who awakens on Earth only to discover that she has been hibernating in space so long that everyone she knows is dead. Then she is talked into traveling (along with a squad of Marines) to a planet under assault by the same aliens that nearly killed her. Once she gets there, she finds a lost little girl who triggers her maternal instincts—and she discovers that the company has once again double-crossed her, in hopes of capturing one of the aliens to study as a military weapon. Directed and written by James Cameron, this is one of the most intensely exciting (not to mention intensely frightening) action films ever, with a large ensemble cast that includes Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Paul Reiser, and Michael Biehn. Weaver defined the action woman in this film and walked away with an Oscar nomination for her trouble. —Marshall Fine
The Abyss
James Cameron Meticulously crafted but also ponderous and predictable, James Cameron's 1989 deep-sea close-encounter epic reaffirms one of the oldest first principles of cinema: everything moves a lot more slowly underwater. Ed Harris and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, as formerly married petroleum engineers who still have some "issues" to work out, are drafted to assist a gung-ho Navy SEAL (Michael Biehn) with a top-secret recovery operation: a nuclear sub has been ambushed and sunk, under mysterious circumstances, in some of the deepest waters on earth, and the petro-techies have the only submersible craft capable of diving down that far. Every image and every performance is painstakingly sharp and detailed (and the computerized water creatures are lovely) but the movie's lumbering pace is ultimately lethal. It's the audience that ends up feeling waterlogged. For a guy who likes guns as much as Cameron (his next film after all, was the body-count masterpiece Terminator 2: Judgment Day), it's interesting that the moral balance here is weighted heavily in favor of the can-do engineers; the military types are end-justifies-the-means amoralists, just like the weasely government bureaucrats in Aliens. —David Chute
Casino Royale
Martin Campbell The most successful invigoration of a cinematic franchise since Batman Begins, Casino Royale offers a new Bond identity. Based on the Ian Fleming novel that introduced Agent 007 into a Cold War world, Casino Royale is the most brutal and viscerally exciting James Bond film since Sean Connery left Her Majesty's Secret Service. Meet the new Bond; not the same as the old Bond. Daniel Craig gives a galvanizing performance as the freshly minted double-0 agent. Suave, yes, but also a "blunt instrument," reckless, and possessed with an ego that compromises his judgment during his first mission to root out the mastermind behind an operation that funds international terrorists. In classic Bond film tradition, his global itinerary takes him to far-flung locales, including Uganda, Madagascar, the Bahamas (that's more like it), and Montenegro, where he is pitted against his nemesis in a poker game, with hundreds of millions in the pot. The stakes get even higher when Bond lets down his "armor" and falls in love with Vesper (Eva Green), the ravishing banker's representative fronting him the money.

For longtime fans of the franchise, Casino Royale offers some retro kicks. Bond wins his iconic Astin-Martin at the gaming table, and when a bartender asks if he wants his martini "shaken or stirred," he disdainfully replies, "Do I look like I give a damn?" There's no Moneypenny or "Q," but Dame Judi Dench is back as the exasperated M, who one senses, admires Bond's "bloody cheek." A Bond film is only as good as its villain, and Mads Mikkelsen as Le Chiffre, who weeps blood, is a sinister dandy. From its punishing violence and virtuoso action sequences to its romance, Casino Royale is a Bond film that, in the words of one character, makes you feel it, particularly during an excruciating torture sequence. Double-0s, Bond observes early on, "have a short life expectancy." But with Craig, there is new life in the old franchise yet, as well as genuine anticipation for the next one when, at last, the signature James Bond theme kicks in following the best last line ever in any Bond film. To quote Goldie Hawn in Private Benjamin, now I know what I've been faking all these years. —Donald Liebenson

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Judge Dredd
Danny Cannon Big-screen superstar Sylvester Stallone powers this nonstop action hit that's loaded with amazing special effects! In a time when all-powerful and coldly efficient "Judges" act with the supreme authority of both the police force and legal system, Judge Dredd (Stallone) is the most feared law enforcer of them all. But when a former Judge (Armand Assante — HOFFA) hatches a sinister plot to overthrow the government and eliminate the Judges, Dredd is framed for murder! Get ready for an explosive action-adventure thrill ride as Dredd does whatever it takes to restore justice!
Futurama - Bender's Big Score
Dwayne Carey-Hill Studio: Tcfhe Release Date: 11/27/2007
Futurama: Bender's Game
Dwayne Carey-Hill Studio: Tcfhe Release Date: 11/04/2008 Run time: 90 minutes Rating: Nr
The City of Lost Children
Marc Caro The fantastic visions of Belgian filmmakers Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet find full fruition in this fairy tale for adults. Evoking utopias and dystopias from Brazil to Peter Pan, Caro and Jeunet create a vivid but menacing fantasy city in a perpetually twilight world. In this rough port town lives circus strongman One (Ron Perlman), who wanders the alleys and waterfront dives looking for his baby brother, snatched from him by a mysterious gang preying upon the children of the town. Rising from the harbor is an enigmatic castle where lives the evil scientist Krank (Daniel Emilfork), who has lost the ability to dream and robs the nocturnal visions of the children he kidnaps, but receives only mad nightmares from the lonely cherubs. Other wild characters include the Fagin-like Octopus—Siamese twin sisters who control a small gang of runaways-turned-thieves—Krank—Krank's six cloned henchmen (all played by the memorable Dominique Pinon from Delicatessen), and a giant brain floating in an aquarium (voiced by Jean-Louis Trintignant). Caro and Jeunet are kindred souls to Terry Gilliam (who is a vocal fan), creating imaginative flights of fancy built of equal parts delight and dread, which seem to be painted on the screen in rich, dreamy colors. —Sean Axmaker
Star Trek: Generations
David Carson There were only two ways for "classic Trek" cast members to appear in a movie with the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation: either Capt. Kirk and his contemporaries would have to be very, very old, or there would be some time travel involved in the plot. Since geriatric heroes aren't very exciting (despite a welcomed cameo appearance by the aged Dr. McCoy), Star Trek: Generations unites Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) and Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) in a time-jumping race to stop a madman's quest for heavenly contentment. When a mysterious energy coil called the Nexus nearly destroys the newly christened U.S.S. Enterprise-B, the just-retired Capt. Kirk is lost and presumed dead. But he's actually been happily trapped in the timeless purgatory of the Nexus—an idyllic state of being described by the mystical Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) as "pure joy." Picard must convince Kirk to leave this artificial comfort zone and confront Dr. Soran (Malcolm McDowell), the madman who will threaten billions of lives to be reunited with the addictive pleasure of the Nexus. With subplots involving the android Data's unpredictable "emotion chip" and the spectacular crash-landing of the starship Enterprise, this crossover movie not only satisfied Trek fans, but it also gave them something they'd never had to confront before: the heroic and truly final death of a beloved Star Trek character. Passing the torch to the Next Generation with dignity and entertaining adventure, the movie isn't going to please everyone with its somewhat hokey plot, but it still ranks as a worthy big-screen launch for Picard and his stalwart crew. —Jeff Shannon
Star Trek The Next Generation - The Complete First Season
David Carson, Timothy Bond, Robert Wiemer Warping into syndication in 1987, Star Trek: The Next Generation successfully launched its seven-season "continuing mission" of the starship Enterprise, and this classy DVD boxed set gathers the show's inaugural season in crisp picture clarity and dazzling 5.1-channel sound. A ratings leader with a sharp ensemble cast, this revamped Trek honored series creator Gene Roddenberry's original Trek concept, nurtured by returning veterans like producer Robert H. Justman and writers D.C. Fontana and David Gerrold. Several first-season episodes have original-series counterparts, and while the season was awkwardly inconsistent for all involved (including Roddenberry's heir apparent, producer Rick Berman), in retrospect the series began on remarkably solid footing.

Patrick Stewart was perfect as Enterprise Captain Jean-Luc Picard, while Marina Sirtis struggled with a wretched hair bun and an ill-defined character, eventually blessing Counselor Troi with delicate nuance. Denise Crosby made a strong but underutilized impression as Security Chief Tasha Yar, and left the series before season's end, allowing writers to develop Klingon Lieutenant Worf (Michael Dorn) into a fan favorite. Brent Spiner transcended Spock comparisons with his triumphant portrayal of the android Lieutenant Commander Data; and while Jonathan Frakes was accepted as First Officer Will Riker, fans ultimately rejected Wil Wheaton as ensign Wesley Crusher, the teenaged son of the ship's doctor (Gates McFadden). Still, these 25 episodes laid a firm foundation for subsequent seasons, and highlights include the Raymond Chandleresque "holo- novel" of "The Big Goodbye," Data's backstory in "Datalore," the Klingon rituals of "Heart of Glory," and a Romulan encounter in "The Neutral Zone." The DVD supplements (all on the seventh disc) are good enough to make anyone wish for more: four featurettes recall myriad first-season challenges, filled with insider perspective and enough NextGen trivia to satiate all but the most obsessive Trekkers back on Earth. Looking back, it's easy to see why NextGen lived long and prospered. —Jeff Shannon
Star Trek The Next Generation - The Complete Second Season
David Carson, Timothy Bond, Robert Wiemer, Chip Chalmers, Joseph L. Scanlan, Robert Scheerer, Les Landau, Robert Legato To the delight of Star Trek fans everywhere, the stellar second season of The Next Generation (1988-89) belonged to Lieutenant Commander Data. As the Enterprise-D's resident android, Data (in the Emmy-worthy hands of Brent Spiner) would gain legal sentience in the season highlight "The Measure of a Man," and his increasingly "human" personality would refine itself in such diverse episodes as "Elementary, Dear Data" (Data as Sherlock Holmes), "The Outrageous Okona" (a misfire, but worthy from the Data perspective), and "Pen Pals." While Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher) took a sabbatical of then-unknown duration (gracefully replaced by original Trek guest star Diana Muldaur as Dr. Pulaski), the remaining bridge crew would match Data's vitality: Riker grew a handsome beard and proved his command potential; Worf became richly nuanced in "The Icarus Factor," and met his match (and mate) in guest Suzie Plakson's fiercely Klingon sexpot K'Ehleyr; Wesley matured admirably, despite continuing fan disapproval; Betazed culture emerged as Troi locked horns with her eccentric mother, Lwaxana (Majel Barrett, in a recurring role); and La Forge made good on his promotion to chief engineer while Chief O'Brien (Colm Meaney) flawlessly rode on Geordi's coattails.

In a crucial series development, Guinan (special guest Whoopi Goldberg) revealed a connection to Q in her helpful capacity as Ten-Forward's enigmatic host, while Q himself (John DeLancie) precipitated the Enterprise's first, fateful encounter with the Borg (in the suspenseful "Q Who?"). Through it all, Patrick Stewart brilliantly intensified all of Picard's renaissance qualities (especially in the dazzling "Time Squared"), exploring the captain's facets with equal measures of curiosity, fascination, amusement, courage, and philosophical insight. Despite its lame finale with the money-saving clip-show "Shades of Gray," season 2 charted a warp-nine course to the even better season 3. —Jeff Shannon
Star Trek The Next Generation - The Complete Third Season
David Carson, Robert Legato, Chip Chalmers, Joseph L. Scanlan, Robert Wiemer, Les Landau Star Trek: The Next Generation's third year was an important development in syndicated television. After two shaky years, Paramount nonetheless decided the franchise still had plenty to do. Their confidence was bolstered by two significant factors. First, cast uncertainties were finally settled: Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher) was back for good; Denise Crosby (Tasha Yar) regretted her first-year departure, and so contrived a return in the Emmy Award-winning "Yesterday's Enterprise"; and Whoopi Goldberg happily continued her actor's-scale contributions.

Second, after the show had survived the previous year's writers' strike, new writing blood revitalized both characters and ideas: Data experienced fatherhood ("The Offspring"), Worf's Klingon heritage kick-started a huge story arc ("Sins of the Father"), and Picard got a saucy vacation ("Captain's Holiday"). There were memorable star cameos: John de Lancie played more mischief alongside Corbin Bernsen ("Déjà Q"); Dwight Schultz played truant in a gentle warning about addiction ("Hollow Pursuits"); and pleasing fans even more was Mark Lenard as Spock's dad ("Sarek"). The strongest evidence that TNG would continue for some time was the trend-setting cliffhanger finale. Fans and critics still agree that "The Best of Both Worlds" (properly introducing the Borg) was one of the greatest tricks ever pulled on TV to make audiences come back for more. —Paul Tonks
Star Trek The Next Generation - The Complete Fourth Season
David Carson, Robert Legato, Chip Chalmers, Joseph L. Scanlan, Robert Wiemer, Les Landau Season 4 of Star Trek: The Next Generation seemed like the year of family. After quickly resolving the breathtaking cliffhanger of "The Best of Both Worlds," the show took pains to show some of what the Federation was fighting for. We meet Picard's brother, Data's father, Tasha's sister, and Worf's adoptive human parents, plus an old flame with a surprise son in tow. The Klingon heritage subplot that begins here and builds to the cliffhanger finale ("Redemption") would continue to the show's end and through into Worf's reappearance in Deep Space Nine.

The year also explored the implications of Data, Lwaxana Troi, Geordi, and Dr. Crusher being in love, while Miles O'Brien (given a first name at last) married Keiko. There were old friends revisited: the ubiquitous Q in a hilarious Robin Hood romp ("Qpid"), perennial screwup Reg Barclay ("Nth Degree"), and even the mysterious Traveler from season 1's "Where No One Has Gone Before" (played by Eric Menyuk, who was nearly cast as Data). There were new races introduced who would have an important bearing on Trek's destiny: the Cardassians and the Trill. Most of all, though, there were the one-off stories that impressed: "Clues," with its memory-loss mystery;"Night Terrors," with some genuine frights; and "Identity Crisis," with possibly the only time Trek technology really helped Geordi solve a puzzle. Then right at the end, reinforcing the year's familial theme, Denise Crosby returned as her own half-Romulan daughter! —Paul Tonks
Star Trek The Next Generation - The Complete Fifth Season
David Carson, Robert Legato, Chip Chalmers, Joseph L. Scanlan, Robert Wiemer, Les Landau The fifth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation saw some of the very best of all 178 shows. "Darmok" had the feel of a "classic Trek" episode, dealing with language as metaphor. "The First Duty" challenged Wesley Crusher's loyalties. The season closer "Time's Arrow" (which concluded in year 6) ranks as one of the best TNG cliffhangers, and treats fans to canon-changing story lines and tons of in-jokes. Best of all was the painfully melancholy "The Inner Light," in which Picard experiences an alternate lifetime. There were great guest stars—Paul Winfield ("Darmok"), Ashley Judd ("The Game"), Kelsey Grammar ("Cause and Effect"), Famke Janssen ("The Perfect Mate"), and Jerry Hardin ("Time's Arrow")—and as always there were contributions from Q, Lwaxana, and Barclay, too.

After the confidence of the previous two years, however, year 5 often disappointed by not seeing a good idea through to the end. Denise Crosby was swept back under the carpet in the Klingon soap opener ("Redemption, Part II"). No one could make the prospect of Deep Space 9 attractive enough to Michelle Forbes, so her fantastic performance as Ensign Ro seems wasted in retrospect. And no one could reschedule Robin Williams to guest star, so we had Matt Frewer instead ("A Matter of Time"). Of all stories to use Leonard Nimoy in, "Unification" wallowed in Romulan politics instead of anything emotionally engaging. Gene Roddenberry wanted to introduce a gay character, but mere months after his death all we got was the trite "The Outcast." This was inarguably where the series weakened, without the Great Bird overseeing what was going on. Worst of all, his hard-as-nails bad guys the Borg were given a touchy-feely side in "I, Borg." Fans and critics now appreciate that the behind-the-scenes focus had shifted from The Next Generation to the next spinoff, and it would never fully return.
Star Trek The Next Generation - The Complete Sixth Season
David Carson, Robert Legato, Chip Chalmers, Joseph L. Scanlan, Robert Wiemer, Les Landau As the sixth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation went into production, everyone knew that attentions would soon be permanently divided by the debut of Deep Space Nine. Sure enough, that meant crossovers ("Birthright"), guest stars, and references back and forth. The sense of baton-passing drew the TNG family closer, however. Directorial debuts begun in season 5 allowed for repeat group-huddle ownership of several shows. Jonathan Frakes bettered "The Quality of Life" by "The Chase," which finally offered an explanation why most races in the Trek universe are humanoid with knobbly foreheads. Patrick Stewart crowbarred a Western into the franchise in "A Fistful of Datas." LeVar Burton introduced the far more exciting Riker clone Thomas in "Second Chances." But here we still find an inability to follow through a good idea, since it was intended for the clone Tom to replace the real Will. Barclay outstayed his welcome with a lackluster "Ship in a Bottle" (despite a hammy cameo from Stephanie Beacham) after he'd injected creepiness into "Realm of Fear." The same happened with Q and the painfully weak "True Q" contrasted by the philosophically challenging "Tapestry," in which Picard faced the decisions of his youth.

Yet ultimately the year provided more memorable moments than either year 5 did or year 7 would. There was the fun of a pint-sized Starfleet in "Rascals," the shocking comment on political torture in "Chain of Command," the endless Matrix-like guessing game of reality in "Frame of Mind," and even a jokey genre nod often called "Die Hard Picard" instead of its official title, "Starship Mine." The two biggest attention-drawing moments came via stellar cameos. There was the bittersweet sight of James Doohan revisiting the original Enterprise bridge on "Relics," then a quick contribution by Stephen Hawking in the cliffhanger "Descent." Both were attempts at keeping TNG the connoisseur's Trek incarnation of choice. —Paul Tonks
Star Trek The Next Generation - The Complete Seventh Season
David Carson, Robert Legato, Chip Chalmers, Joseph L. Scanlan, Robert Wiemer, Les Landau The seventh and final season of Star Trek: The Next Generation will always remain a curiosity in TV sci-fi history. Despite the end being definite, despite Deep Space Nine taking over, despite knowing there'd be a movie six months after the series' end, and despite Babylon 5 starting that year with its predetermined story arc, there is nothing here to suggest things were coming to a close. Wesley finally gets dispatched ("Journey's End"), but everyone was waiting for that anyway. Some continuity was attempted: there's a sequel to season 1's "The Battle" ("Bloodlines"), Alexander follows the Klingon soap saga through ("Firstborn"), the Maquis and the Cardassians are mentioned several times, and there are final installments for Lwaxana Troi, Barclay, Lore, Guinan, and Ro Laren. None of this brings any form of resolution, however.

The one-off story lines seem to throw out ideas that beg for development. "Force of Nature" suggests frequent high-warp travel is damaging the very fabric of space/time. "Parallels" has Worf experiencing multiple realities, including one in which the Borg won at Wolf 359. "Lower Decks" finally introduces some secondary crew from the more than a thousand supposedly supporting Picard and company. There are even hints at some romance at long last between Dr. Crusher and Picard as well as Worf and Troi. In the long run, even after terrific guest spots from Trek alumni Armin Shimerman and Robin Curtis, and from Paul Sorvino and Kirsten Dunst, there's one thing for which the final year is remembered: "All Good Things..." is a near-perfect denouement for the show. With terrific production values and FX, not to mention standout performances from all concerned, it was an amazing surprise to have Q suggest there'd been a story arc right from the get-go. If only this final script had been fully conceived earlier on, The Next Generation might not have been overshadowed by the glut of TV sci-fi that followed in its wake. —Paul Tonks
Borat - Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
Larry Charles It takes a certain kind of comic genius to create a character who is, to quote the classic Sondheim lyric, appealing and appalling. But be forewarned: Borat is not "something for everyone." It arrives as advertised as one of the most outrageous, most offensive, and funniest films in years. Kazakhstan journalist Borat Sagdiyev (Sacha Baron Cohen reprising the popular character from his Da Ali G Show), leaves his humble village to come to "U.S. of A" to film a documentary. After catching an episode of Baywatch in his New York hotel room, he impulsively scuttles his plans and, accompanied by his fat,

hirsute producer (Hardy to his Laurel), proceeds to California to pursue the object of his obsession, Pamela Anderson. Borat is not about how he finds America; it's about how America finds him in a series of increasingly cringe-worthy scenes. Borat, with his '70s mustache, well-worn grey suit, and outrageously backwards attitudes (especially where Jews are concerned) interacts with a cross-section of the populace, catching them, a la Alan Funt on Candid Camera, in the act of being themselves. Early on, an unwitting humor coach advises Borat about various types of jokes. Borat asks if his brother's retardation is a ripe subject for comedy. The coach patiently replies, "That would not be funny in America." NOT! Borat is subversively, bracingly funny. When it comes to exploring uncharted territory of what is and is not appropriate or politically correct, Borat knows no boundaries, as when he brings a fancy dinner with the southern gentry to a halt after returning from the bathroom with a bag of his feces ("The cultural differences are vast," his hostess graciously/patronizingly offers), or turns cheers to boos at a rodeo when he calls for bloodlust against the Iraqis and mangles "The Star Spangled Banner."

Success, John F. Kennedy once said, has a thousand fathers. A paternity test on Borat might reveal traces of Bill Dana's Jose Jimenez, Andy Kaufman, Michael Moore, The Jamie Kennedy Xperiment, and Jackass. Some scenes seem to have been staged (a game Anderson, whom Borat confronts at a book signing, was reportedly in on the setup), but others, as the growing litany of lawsuits attests, were not. All too real is Borat's encounter with loutish Southern frat boys who reveal their sexism and racism, and the disturbing moment when he asks a gun store owner what gun he would recommend to "kill a Jew" (a Glock automatic is the matter-of-fact reply). Comedy is not pretty, and in Borat it can get downright ugly, as when Borat and his producer get jiggly with it during a nude fight that spills out from their hotel room into the hallway, elevator, lobby and finally, a mortgage brokers association banquet. High-five! —Donald Liebenson

Beyond Borat

All things Sacha Baron Cohen

Borat Apparel

Borat Soundtrack

Stills from Borat (click for larger image)
The Avengers
Jeremiah S. Chechik based on the sophisticated, quirky british secret-agent television series of the 1960s. a scientist who develops the means to control large-scale weather changes uses his discovery to wreak evil. emma peele and john steed must stop the villian for person
Battlefield Earth
Roger Christian When Battlefield Earth was released in May 2000, this inept sci-fi epic qualified as an instant camp classic, prompting Daily Variety to call it "the Showgirls of sci-fi shoot-'em-ups." Other reviews were united in their derision, and toy stores were left with truckloads of Battlefield Earth action figures that nobody wanted. As the film's star and coproducer, John Travolta must have felt an urge to enlist in the witness protection program.

Recklessly adapted from the novel by sci-fi author and Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and set in the year 3000, the film is no worse than many cheesy sci-fi flicks, but the sight of Travolta as a burly, dreadlocked alien from the planet Psychlo provokes unintentional laughter from first frame to final credits. As Terl, the Psychlo security chief who conquers Earth and hatches a secret scheme to steal all the gold from Fort Knox (which sits conveniently in wide-open vaults), Travolta hams it up as if he knows he's in a camp-fest. (In a cameo as a long-tongued Psychlo seductress, Travolta's wife, Kelly Preston, only adds to the absurdity.) Barry Pepper (the praying sharpshooter from Saving Private Ryan) tries his best to convey charisma as Jonnie, the human slave who leads an uprising against Terl's tyranny, but he's adrift in a foolish plot that makes even smart humans look stupid.

The decrepit look of a dreary future is convincingly established (the ruins of Washington D.C. recall Logan's Run on a grander scale), but in the wake of its ludicrous climax, the best that Battlefield Earth can hope for is a Dune-like fate: it might improve in a longer director's cut—but that's wishful thinking. —Jeff Shannon
Dark Fury - The Chronicles of Riddick (Animated)
Peter Chung Taking a page from The Animatrix, Dark Fury is part of a new trend of bridging theatrical sequels. As an official product of a franchise, the 35-minute anime benefits from having the original actors voice the characters, including Vin Diesel as Riddick. This story opens with the new action hero and the two other survivors of Pitch Black already caught by a giant spaceship filled with dread. The sinewy leader has a unique—and creepy—jail for master villains and she has her sights set on Riddick. The film—indeed the series—is indebted to animator Peter Chung, who brings his techno style from his Aeon Flux series. His smooth animation for Riddick doesn't reinvent the character as much as give him a new, appealing fluidity. As anime goes, there's nothing really new here—plenty of action, cool killers, and dramatic spurts of blood—but it's a building block for how this genre might enliven movie series and sequels in the future. —Doug Thomas
Bicentennial Man
Chris Columbus Bicentennial Man was stung at the 1999 box office, due no doubt in part to poor timing during a backlash against Robin Williams and his treacly performances in two other, then-recent releases, Jakob the Liar and Patch Adams. But this near-approximation of a science fiction epic, based on works by Isaac Asimov and directed, with uncharacteristic seriousness of purpose, by Chris Columbus (Mrs. Doubtfire), is much better than one would have known from the knee-jerk negativity and box-office indifference.

Williams plays Andrew, a robot programmed for domestic chores and sold to an upper-middle-class family, the Martins, in the year 2005. The family patriarch (Sam Neill) recognizes and encourages Andrew's uncommon characteristics, particularly his artistic streak, sensitivity to beauty, humor, and independence of spirit. In so doing, he sets Williams's tin man on a two-century journey to become more human than most human beings.

As adapted by screenwriter Nicholas Kazan, the movie's scale is novelistic, though Columbus isn't the man to embrace with Spielbergian confidence its sweeping possibilities. Instead, the Home Alone director shakes off his familiar tendencies to pander and matures, finally, as a captivating storyteller. But what really makes this film matter is its undercurrent of deep yearning, the passion of Andrew as a convert to the human race and his willingness to sacrifice all to give and take love. Williams rises to an atypical challenge here as a futuristic Everyman, relying, perhaps for the first time, on his considerable iconic value to make the point that becoming human means becoming more like Robin Williams. Nothing wrong with that. —Tom Keogh
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Widescreen Edition) (Harry Potter 2)
Chris Columbus First sequels are the true test of an enduring movie franchise, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets passes with flying colors. Expanding upon the lavish sets, special effects, and grand adventure of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Harry's second year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry involves a darker, more malevolent tale (parents with younger children beware), beginning with the petrified bodies of several Hogwarts students and magical clues leading Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Ron (Rupert Grint), and Hermione (Emma Watson) to a 50-year-old mystery in the monster-laden Chamber of Secrets. House elves, squealing mandrakes, giant spiders, and venomous serpents populate this loyal adaptation (by Sorcerer's Stone director Chris Columbus and screenwriter Steve Kloves), and Kenneth Branagh delightfully tops the supreme supporting cast as the vainglorious charlatan Gilderoy Lockhart (be sure to view past the credits for a visual punchline at Lockhart's expense). At 161 minutes, the film suffers from lack of depth and uneven pacing, and John Williams' score mostly reprises established themes. The young, fast-growing cast offers ample compensation, however, as does the late Richard Harris in his final screen appearance as Professor Albus Dumbledore. Brimming with cleverness, wonderment, and big-budget splendor, Chamber honors the legacy of J.K. Rowling's novels. —Jeff Shannon
Harry Potter - Years 1-3 Collection (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone/Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets/Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) (6-Disc DVD Set)
Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón The filmed version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, adapted from the wildly popular book by J.K. Rowling, stunningly brings to life Harry Potter's world of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The greatest strength of the film comes from its faithfulness to the novel, and this new cinematic world is filled with all the details of Rowling's imagination, thanks to exuberant sets, elaborate costumes, clever makeup and visual effects, and a crème de la crème cast, including Maggie Smith, Richard Harris, Alan Rickman, and more. Especially fine is the interplay between Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his schoolmates Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), as well as his protector, the looming Hagrid (Robbie Coltrane). The second-half adventure—involving the titular sorcerer's stone—doesn—doesn't translate perfectly from page to screen, ultimately because of the film's fidelity to the novel; this is a case of making a movie for the book's fans, as opposed to a transcending film. Writer Steve Kloves and director Chris Columbus keep the spooks in check, making this a true family film, and with its resourceful hero wide-eyed and ready, one can't wait for Harry's return.

First sequels are the true test of an enduring movie franchise, and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets passes with flying colors. Harry's second year at Hogwarts involves a darker, more malevolent tale (parents with younger children beware), beginning with the petrified bodies of several Hogwarts students and magical clues leading Harry, Ron, and Hermione to a 50-year-old mystery in the monster-laden Chamber of Secrets. House elves, squealing mandrakes, giant spiders, and venomous serpents populate this loyal adaptation (by director Chris Columbus and screenwriter Steve Kloves), and Kenneth Branagh delightfully tops the supreme supporting cast as the vainglorious charlatan Gilderoy Lockhart. At 161 minutes, the film suffers from lack of depth and uneven pacing, and John Williams's score mostly reprises established themes. The young, fast-growing cast offers ample compensation, however, as does the late Richard Harris in his final screen appearance as Professor Albus Dumbledore. Brimming with cleverness, wonderment, and big-budget splendor, Chamber honors the legacy of J.K. Rowling's novels.

Some movie-loving wizards must have cast a magic spell on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, because it's another grand slam for the Harry Potter franchise. Demonstrating remarkable versatility after the arthouse success of Y Tu Mamá También, director Alfonso Cuarón proves a perfect choice to guide Harry, Hermione, and Ron into treacherous puberty as the now 13-year-old students at Hogwarts face a new and daunting challenge: Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from Azkaban prison, and for reasons yet unknown (unless, of course, you've read J.K. Rowling's book, considered by many to be the best in the series), he's after Harry in a bid for revenge. This dark and dangerous mystery drives the action while Harry and his third-year classmates discover the flying hippogriff Buckbeak (a marvelous CGI creature), the benevolent but enigmatic Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), horrifying black-robed Dementors, sneaky Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall), and the wonderful advantage of having a Time-Turner just when you need one. The familiar Hogwarts staff returns in fine form (including the delightful Michael Gambon, replacing the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and Emma Thompson as the goggle-eyed Sybil Trelawney), and even Julie Christie joins this prestigious production for a brief but welcome cameo. Technically dazzling, fast-paced, and chock-full of Rowling's boundless imagination, The Prisoner of Azkaban is a Potter-movie classic. (Ages 8 and older)
Sky Captain & The World of Tomorrow [HD DVD]
Kerry Conran
The Beastmaster
Don Coscarelli BORN WITH THE COURAGE OF AN EAGLE, THE STRENGTH OF A PANTHER AND THE POWER OF A GOD. THE EPIC ADVENTURE IS BACK LIKE NEVER BEFORE! He was the unborn crown prince of a family slaughtered by lords of evil. But when he grows to manhood, the warrior Dar (Marc Singer) embarks on a perilous journey to seek his revenge on the monstrous priest Maax (Rip Torn). Now with the help of a cunning hunter (John Amos), the love of a beautiful slave girl (Tanya Roberts) and the extraordinary ability to communicate with animals, Dar must battle his way through a wasteland of sorcery and black magic on the ultimate quest for freedom and vengeance. Experience THE BEASTMASTER like you ve never seen or heard it before! This cult favorite has now been transferred from original vault materials and comes loaded with exclusive extras, never-before-seen footage and some very wild surprises, all personally supervised by co-writer/director Don Coscarelli (PHANTASM). Includes 16 page booklet of original preproduction sketches and liner notes. Also includes a 5x7 Original Theatrical Poster Replica.

System Requirements:

Starring: Rip Torn, Tanya Roberts, John Amos, Marc Singer

Director: Don Coscarelli

Producer: Paul Pepperman & Sylvio Tabet

Running Time: 118 Min.

Format: DVD MOVIE
Scanners
David Cronenberg David Cronenberg's 1981 horror film is a darkly paranoid story of a homeless man (Stephen Lack) mistakenly believed to be insane, when in fact he can't turn off the sound of other people's thoughts in his telepathic mind. Helped by a doctor (Patrick McGoohan) and enlisted in a program of "scanners"—telepaths who also can will heads to explode—he becomes involved in a battle against nefarious forces. A number of critics consider this to be Cronenberg's first great film, and indeed it has a serious vision of destiny that rivals some of the important German expressionist works from the silent cinema. Lack is very good as the odd hero, and McGoohan is effectively eccentric and chilly as the scientist who saves him from the street, only to thrust him into a terrible struggle. —Tom Keogh
Naked Lunch (REGION 1) (NTSC)
David Cronenberg You are now entering Interzone, William S Burroughs' phantasmagorical land of junk, paranoia and crawly things. Best travel advice: "Exterminate all rational thought". In David Cronenberg's superbly shot, unnerving warp on the Burroughs novel, Naked Lunch, the novelist himself becomes a main character (played in an implacable monotone by Peter Weller), with elements from Burroughs' life—including the shooting of his wife during a "William Tell" game, and bohemian friends Kerouac and Ginsberg—added to frame the book's wild visions. This is, ironically, a somewhat rational approach to an unfilmable book (and it makes a hair-curling double bill with Barton Fink, another look at writerly madness, with both films sharing Judy Davis). Cronenberg is a natural for oozing mugwumps and typewriters that turn into giant bugs, of course. But in the end, this is really his own vision of the artistic process, rather than Burroughs' hallucinatory descent into hell. —Robert Horton, Amazon.com
Videodrome - Criterion Collection
David Cronenberg Love it or loathe it, David Cronenberg's 1983 horror film Videodrome is a movie to be reckoned with. Inviting extremes of response from disdain (critic Roger Ebert called it "one of the least entertaining films ever made") to academic euphoria, it's the kind of film that is simultaneously sickening and seemingly devoid of humanity, but also blessed with provocative ideas and a compelling subtext of social commentary. Giving yet another powerful and disturbing performance, James Woods stars as the operator of a low-budget cable-TV station who accidentally intercepts a mysterious cable transmission that features the apparent torture and death of women in its programming. He traces the show to its source and discovers a mysterious plot to broadcast a subliminally influential signal into the homes of millions, masterminded by a quasi-religious character named Brian O'Blivion and his overly reverent daughter. Meanwhile Woods is falling under the spell, becoming a victim of video, and losing his grip—both physically and psychologically—on the distinction between reality and television. A potent treatise on the effects of total immersion into our mass-media culture, Videodrome is also (to the delight of Cronenberg's loyal fans) a showcase for obsessions manifested in the tangible world of the flesh. It's a hallucinogenic world in which a television set seems to breathe with a life of its own, and where the body itself can become a VCR repository for disturbing imagery. Featuring bizarre makeup effects by Rick Baker and a daring performance by Deborah Harry (of Blondie fame) as Wood's sadomasochistic girlfriend, Videodrome is pure Cronenberg—unsettling, intelligent, and decidedly not for every taste. —Jeff Shannon
A History of Violence
David Cronenberg On the surface, David Cronenberg may seem an unlikely candidate to direct A History of Violence, but dig deeper and you'll see that he's the right man for the job. As an intellectual seeker of meaning and an avowed believer in Darwinian survival of the fittest, Cronenberg knows that the story of mild-mannered small-town diner proprietor Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen) is in fact a multilayered examination of inbred human behavior, beginning when Tom's skillful killing of two would-be robbers draws unwanted attention to his idyllic family life in rural Indiana. He's got a loving wife (Maria Bello) and young daughter (Heidi Hayes) who are about to learn things about Tom they hadn't suspected, and a teenage son (Ashton Holmes) who has inherited his father's most prominent survival trait, manifesting itself in ways he never expected. By the time Tom has come into contact with a scarred villain (Ed Harris) and connections that lead him to a half-crazy kingpin (William Hurt, in a spectacular cameo), Cronenberg has plumbed the dark depths of human nature so skillfully that A History of Violence stands well above the graphic novel that inspired it (indeed, Cronenberg was unaware of the source material behind Josh Olson's chilling adaptation). With hard-hitting violence that's as sudden as it is graphically authentic, this is A History of Violence that's worthy of serious study and widespread acclaim. —Jeff Shannon

On the DVD
On a single disc and with little fanfare, this DVD makes an excellent case for the best extras of the year. Dive into the one-hour-long documentary and learn more about moviemaking than on many a double-disc. The secret lies in director David Cronenberg's (and his usual crew) folksy casualness in showing off the craft, be it makeup (green screens were used), directing (Cronenberg doesn't storyboard), or art direction (the diner set). It also is very funny to hear about "fish Fridays" and how Maria Bello's Uncle Pete became an influence. Even the infamous sex-on-the-staircase scene is diagnosed with candor as stars Viggo Mortensen and Bello act as if there is no backstage camera. There's only one deleted scene, but it's uncommonly deconstructed on why it was filmed and why it was cut (it's a very Cronenbergian dream sequence). A short bit on Cannes is also a delight. So much is here that Cronenberg's smart commentary track is nearly superfluous. Isn't that a nice surprise? —Doug Thomas

More to Explore

The Graphic Novel

Other Graphic Novels that Inspired Movies

David Cronenberg Essentials

Why We Love Maria Bello

The work of Viggo Mortensen

The work of William Hurt

Stills from A History of Violence

Viggo Mortensoe as Tom Stall

Ashton Holmes as Jack Stall and Kyle Schmid as Bobby Jordan

William Hurt as Richie Cusack

Ed Harris as Carl Fogarty and Viggo Mortensen as Tom Stall

Maria Bello as Edie Stall

Director David Cronenberg
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Widescreen Edition) (Harry Potter 3)
Alfonso Cuarón Some movie-loving wizards must have cast a magic spell on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, because it's another grand slam for the Harry Potter franchise. Demonstrating remarkable versatility after the arthouse success of Y Tu Mamá También, director Alfonso Cuarón proves a perfect choice to guide Harry, Hermione, and Ron into treacherous puberty as the now 13-year-old students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry face a new and daunting challenge: Sirius Black (Gary Oldman) has escaped from Azkaban prison, and for reasons yet unknown (unless, of course, you've read J.K. Rowling's book, considered by many to be the best in the series), he's after Harry in a bid for revenge. This dark and dangerous mystery drives the action while Harry (the fast-growing Daniel Radcliffe) and his third-year Hogwarts classmates discover the flying hippogriff Buckbeak (a marvelous CGI creature), the benevolent but enigmatic Professor Lupin (David Thewlis), horrifying black-robed Dementors, sneaky Peter Pettigrew (Timothy Spall), and the wonderful advantage of having a Time-Turner just when you need one. The familiar Hogwarts staff returns in fine form (including the delightful Michael Gambon, replacing the late Richard Harris as Dumbledore, and Emma Thompson as the goggle-eyed Sybil Trelawney), and even Julie Christie joins this prestigious production for a brief but welcome cameo. Technically dazzling, fast-paced, and chock-full of Rowling's boundless imagination (loyally adapted by ace screenwriter Steve Kloves), The Prisoner of Azkaban is a Potter-movie classic. —Jeff Shannon
The Running Man
Andrew Davis, Paul Michael Glaser * * * * - In this action thriller based on an early story by Stephen King, Los Angeles in the year 2017 has become a police state in the wake of the global economy's total collapse. All forms of entertainment are government controlled, and the most popular show on television is an elaborate game show in which convicted criminals are given a chance to escape by running through a gauntlet of brutal killers known as "Stalkers." Anyone who survives is given their freedom and a condominium in Hawaii, so when a wrongly accused citizen (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is chosen as a contestant, all hell breaks loose. Cheesy sets and a slimy role for game-show host Richard Dawson make this violent mess of mayhem a candidate for guilty pleasure; it is the kind of movie that truly devoted Arnold fans will want to watch more than once. And check those credits—choreography by Paula Abdul! —Jeff Shannon
Half Baked Fully Baked Widescreen Edition
Tamra Davis Cannabis comedy doesn't get more juvenile than this pro-pot goof about three stoners who come to the rescue of a fourth buddy when he's arrested for feeding a lethal dose of junk food to a diabetic police horse. Kenny (Harland Williams) is sent to jail, and to rescue him from the almost inevitable trauma of homosexual rape (giving you some idea of this movie's level of humor), his buddies set out to raise his $100,000 bail by selling high-grade weed ripped off from a pharmaceutical research lab. That's about it for the plot; the rest of the movie's a parade of marijuana jokes and amusing pot-friendly cameos by the likes of Snoop Dog, Willie Nelson, and Janeane Garofalo. As two of the bong-hitting buddies, Jim Breuer (from Saturday Night Live) and comedian Dave Chappelle do their best to disguise the movie's lack of inspiration. But no matter how hard they try to milk laughs from the one-joke premise, they can't stop the movie's title from being an apt description of the movie itself. — Jeff Shannon
Red Dwarf - Series 7
Andy DeEmmony, Rob Grant, Paul Jackson (II), Juliet May, Doug Naylor Here's what you'll find in the seventh season of Red Dwarf: the truth behind the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the return of Ace Rimmer (or a reasonable facsimile), an emotional rollercoaster created from real emotions, a very seductive virus, and numerous mishaps involving dimensional accidents, wormholes, nanobots, and male-female relationships. If that makes perfect sense to you, you're undoubtedly a fan of the cult comedy/science fiction series, but even if you're not, there are plenty of laughs to be had. Of course, not every Red Dwarf fan will be in accordance—Series 7 has been the subject of much controversy since its original airing in 1997-98, due mostly to the departure of co-creator Rob Grant, the departure of Chris Barrie's Arnold Rimmer, and the arrival of new castmate Chloe Annett as Dave Lister's ex-girlfriend, Christine Kochanski (who had been played by another actress, Clare Grogan, in earlier episodes). But no matter which side you happen to pick for this debate, there are still enough amusing and thought-provoking moments in each episode to please even the most demanding fan.

Highlights for the season include the opener, "Tikka to Ride," which turns a trip for curry into a visit to Dallas circa '63;"Blue," which addresses the departure of Rimmer and the uncomfortable relationship between Kochanski, Lister (Craig Charles), and Kryten (Robert Llewellyn), and "Nanarchy," in which the aforementioned microscopic robots create more havoc than actual repair. Supplemental features have always been one of the main attractions to the Red Dwarf DVD sets, and Series 7 doesn't disappoint: included are commentary by the cast (including Norman Lovett, the original Holly) on "Nanarchy";"Back from the Dead," a 90-minute featurette with new interviews and previously unseen footage; a pair of short films made by fans for a competition; extended editions of three episodes (with no laugh track); 40 minutes of deleted scenes; early effects footage; and lots more. —Paul Gaita
Zoo
Robinson Devor Zoo is an extraordinary glimpse into the life of a seemingly normal Seattle family man whose secret sexual appetites led to his shocking death. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Robinson Devor (Woman Chaser Police Beat) the film explores the ensuing media coverage and public outcry that uncovered a secret community of zoophiles who call themselves "zoos." This expressionistic rendering of how apparently upstanding citizens banded together and videotaped their journey into the most taboo realms of behavior reveals the enormous gulf between what we appear to be and who we really are.System Requirements:Running Time: 76 minutesFormat: DVD MOVIE Genre: DOCUMENTARIES/MISC. Rating: NR UPC: 821575552653 Manufacturer No: TF-55265
The Emperor's New Groove
Mark Dindal Originally developed as an epic called Kingdom of the Sun, The Emperor's New Groove lost scale and most of Sting's song score (some of which can be heard on the soundtrack) on its way to the screen. The end result is the lightest Disney film in many a moon, a joyous romp akin to Aladdin in its quotient of laughs for kids and adults. The original story centers on the spoiled teenage emperor Kuzco (David Spade), who enjoys getting the best of his Aztecan subjects. When he fires Yzma (Eartha Kitt), his evil sorceress, she seeks revenge and turns Kuzco into a llama with the help of her hunk of the month, a lunk named Kronk (Patrick Warburton). Alone in the jungle, the talking llama is befriended by Pacha (John Goodman), who has just been told to vacate his pastoral home by the human Kuzco. What's an ego to do? That's pretty much the story and the characters—simple, direct, fun—a Disney film on a diet. For any fan of the acidic humor of Spade, this is essential viewing. As narrator of his tale, Kuzco uses a sarcastic tone to keep the story jumping with plenty of fun asides (he even "stops" the film at one point to make sure you know the story is about him). Even better is character actor Warburton (Elaine's stuck-up boyfriend on Seinfeld), who steals every scene as the dim-witted, but oh-so-likable Kronk. There's even a delicious Tom Jones number that starts the film off with a bang. —Doug Thomas
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil
Clint Eastwood Readers of John Berendt's bestselling novel were bound to be at least somewhat disappointed by this big-screen adaptation, but despite mixed reaction from critics and audiences, there's still plenty to admire about director Clint Eastwood's take on the material. Readers will surely miss the rich atmosphere and societal detail that Berendt brought to his "Savannah story," and the movie can only scratch the surface of Georgian history, tradition, and wealthy decadence underlying Berendt's fact-based murder mystery. Still, Eastwood maintains an assured focus on the wonderful eccentrics of Savannah, most notably a gay Savannah antiques dealer (superbly played by Kevin Spacey), who may or may not have killed his friend and alleged lover (Jude Law). John Cusack plays the Town & Country journalist who arrives in Savannah to find much more than he bargained for—including the city's legendary drag queen Lady Chablis (playing "herself")—and John Lee Hancock's smoothly adapted screenplay succeeds in bringing Berendt's characters vividly to life with plenty of flavorful dialogue. In similar fashion to Warner's acclaimed DVD of L.A. Confidential, this classy DVD includes a behind-the-scenes documentary titled The Real People in the Garden and an interactive map tour of Savannah and its most celebrated (or notorious) citizens. The original theatrical trailer is also included. —Jeff Shannon
Letters from Iwo Jima / Flags of Our Fathers
Clint Eastwood Flags of Our Fathers

Thematically ambitious and emotionally complex, Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers is an intimate epic with much to say about war and the nature of heroism in America. Based on the non-fiction bestseller by James Bradley (with Ron Powers), and adapted by Million Dollar Baby screenwriter Paul Haggis (Jarhead screenwriter William Broyles Jr. wrote an earlier draft that was abandoned when Eastwood signed on to direct), this isn't so much a conventional war movie as it is a thought-provoking meditation on our collective need for heroes, even at the expense of those we deem heroic. In telling the story of the six men (five Marines, one Navy medic) who raised the American flag of victory on the battle-ravaged Japanese island of Iwo Jima on February 23rd, 1945, Eastwood takes us deep into the horror of war (in painstakingly authentic Iwo Jima battle scenes) while emphasizing how three of the surviving flag-raisers (played by Adam Beach, Ryan Phillippe, and Jesse Bradford) became reluctant celebrities—and resentful pawns in a wartime publicity campaign - after their flag-raising was immortalized by Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal in the most famous photograph in military history.

As the surviving flag-raisers reluctantly play their public roles as "the heroes of Iwo Jima" during an exhausting (but clearly necessary) wartime bond rally tour, Flags of Our Fathers evolves into a pointed study of battlefield valor and misplaced idolatry, incorporating subtle comment on the bogus nature of celebrity, the trauma of battle, and the true meaning of heroism in wartime. Wisely avoiding any direct parallels to contemporary history, Eastwood allows us to draw our own conclusions about the Iwo Jima flag-raisers and how their postwar histories (both noble and tragic) simultaneously illustrate the hazards of exploited celebrity and society's genuine need for admirable role models during times of national crisis. Flags of Our Fathers defies the expectations of those seeking a more straightforward war-action drama, but it's richly satisfying, impeccably crafted film that manages to be genuinely patriotic (in celebrating the camaraderie of soldiers in battle) while dramatizing the ultimate futility of war. Eastwood's follow-up film, Letters from Iwo Jima, examines the Iwo Jima conflict from the Japanese perspective. —Jeff Shannon

On the DVDs
The two-disc special edition of Flags of Our Fathers offers a fine balance of behind-the-scenes production features and archival history. Disc 1 is entirely dedicated to Clint Eastwood's acclaimed wartime drama, paired with an abundance of special features on disc 2. First up is a three-minute introduction by Clint Eastwood, who explains his attraction to James Bradley's nonfiction bestseller, how he partnered with Steven Spielberg to coproduce this ambitious production, and the themes of wartime valor and misguided celebrity that he wished to illuminate. Next, author Bradley recalls the process of seeing his book translated to film (including interview clips with screenwriters William Broyles Jr. and Paul Haggis) and his involvement with the production as an authoritative consultant. In the 20-minute featurette "Six Brave Men," the actors who played the celebrated Iwo Jima flag-raisers speak about their characters, how they fit into the history of Iwo Jima, and the responsibility of honoring their memories with historically accurate portrayals. "The Making of an Epic" is a 30-minute behind-the-scenes documentary covering all aspects of production, from the decision to film in Iceland (where black volcanic sand matched the barren beaches of Iwo Jima) to the individual contributions of key personnel, most notably cinematographer Tom Stern, editor Joel Cox, costume designer Deborah Hopper, the late, great production designer Henry Bumstead, and Eastwood's longtime casting director, the late Phyllis Huffman. (The making-of feature is dedicated to Bumstead and Huffman, who both succumbed to cancer shortly after production was completed.) "Raising the Flag" (running a little over three minutes) focuses on the cast and crew's meticulous re-creation of the second Iwo Jima flag-raising, demonstrating the reverent care with which each soldier's movements were duplicated in exacting detail. "Looking into the Past" is a nearly 10-minute assembly of 1945 newsreel footage, showing many of the actual events that were dramatized in Eastwood's film, and demonstrating the impressive efforts that went into making Flags of Our Fathers as authentic as it could possibly be. The 15-minute "Visual Effects" featurette provides a detailed analysis of Digital Domain's diligent efforts to achieve convincing photo-realistic images in the film's epic-scale battle sequences, home-front bond rallies, and other sequences where CGI wizardry was required. The original theatrical trailer for Flags of Our Fathers is also included. —Jeff Shannon

Letters from Iwo Jima
Critically hailed as an instant classic, Clint Eastwood's Letters from Iwo Jima is a masterwork of uncommon humanity and a harrowing, unforgettable indictment of the horrors of war. In an unprecedented demonstration of worldly citizenship, Eastwood (from a spare, tightly focused screenplay by first-time screenwriter Iris Yamashita) has crafted a truly Japanese film, with Japanese dialogue (with subtitles) and filmed in a contemplative Japanese style, serving as both complement and counterpoint to Eastwood's previously released companion film Flags of Our Fathers. Where the earlier film employed a complex non-linear structure and epic-scale production values to dramatize one of the bloodiest battles of World War II and its traumatic impact on American soldiers, Letters reveals the battle of Iwo Jima from the tunnel- and cave-dwelling perspective of the Japanese, hopelessly outnumbered, deprived of reinforcements, and doomed to die in inevitable defeat. While maintaining many of the traditions of the conventional war drama, Eastwood extends his sympathetic touch to humanize "the enemy," revealing the internal and external conflicts of soldiers and officers alike, forced by circumstance to sacrifice themselves or defend their honor against insurmountable odds. From the weary reluctance of a young recruit named Saigo (Kazunari Ninomiya) to the dignified yet desperately anguished strategy of Japanese commander Tadamichi Kuribayashi (played by Oscar-nominated The Last Samurai costar Ken Watanabe), whose letters home inspired the film's title and present-day framing device, Letters from Iwo Jima (which conveys the bleakness of battle through a near-total absence of color) steadfastly avoids the glorification of war while paying honorable tribute to ill-fated men who can only dream of the comforts of home. —Jeff Shannon

On the DVDs
Like the film itself, the two-disc special edition of Letters from Iwo Jima is predominantly Japanese in content, and that's as it should be. Disc 1 presents the film in a flawless widescreen transfer, with a Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround soundtrack that perfectly captures the film's wide dynamic range. The optional subtitles can be turned off for those wishing to immerse themselves in a completely Japanese viewing experience. Disc 2 opens with "Red Sun, Black Sand: The Making of Letters from Iwo Jima," a 20-minute behind-the-scenes documentary that concisely covers all aspects of production, from director Clint Eastwood's initial decision to create a companion piece to Flags of Our Fathers, to interview comments from principal cast and crew, the latter including Flags screenwriters Paul Haggis and Letters screenwriter Iris Yamashita, costume designer Deborah Hopper, editor Joel Cox, cinematographer Tom Stern, production designer James Murakami (taking over for the ailing Henry Bumstead), and coproducer Rob Lorenz. "The Faces of Combat" is an 18-minute featurette about selecting the Japanese (and Japanese-American) cast of Letters, and how they were chosen through the international collaboration of Eastwood's long-time casting director Phyllis Huffman (who turned over some of her duties to her son while struggling with terminal illness) and Japanese casting associate Yumi Takada, who filled important roles with Japanese celebrities (like pop star Kazunari Ninomiya, who plays "Saigo") and unknown actors alike.

"Images from the Frontlines" is a 3.5-minute montage of images from the film and behind-the-scenes, set to the sparse piano theme of Eastwood's original score. The remaining bonus features chronicle the world premiere of Letters in Tokyo on November 15, 2006. The premiere itself is covered in a 16-minute featurette taped at the famous Budokan arena, where we see the red-carpet procession, a full-capacity audience despite cold November weather, and introductory comments from the film's primary cast and crew, many of them quite moving with regard to the satisfaction of working on a film that helps Japanese viewers come to terms with a painful chapter of their history. The following day's press conference (at the Grand Hyatt Tokyo hotel) is a 24-minute Q&A session covering much of the same territory, with additional testimony from principal cast & crew. Throughout this two-day event, it's clear that Eastwood (referring to himself as "a Japanese director who doesn't speak the Japanese language") was warmly embraced by the Japanese, and that Letters from Iwo Jima had served its intended purpose, reminding us of the horrors of war while uniting both Japanese and Americans in somber reflection, 61 years after the battle of Iwo Jima. —Jeff Shannon

On the bonus fifth disc is an A&E documentary Heroes of Iwo Jima from 2001 narrated by Gene Hackman, and "To the Shores of Iwo Jima," a 1945 short film that was Oscar-nominated for best documentary short.
The Party
Blake Edwards Though this film is a relatively minor one in the massive canon of Peter Sellers, it has moments of absolute hilarity. Written and directed by Blake Edwards, one of Sellers's most fertile collaborators, the film stars Sellers as a would-be actor from India (let them try to get away with that today) who is a walking disaster area. After ruining a day's shooting as an extra on a film, he finds himself unintentionally invited to a big Hollywood party. That's pretty much it as far as plot goes, but Edwards and Sellers know how to milk a simple idea for an unending string of slapstick gags. The result is a film that is episodic and sketchy, but also frequently loony in an inspired way. —Marshall Fine
The Pink Panther Film Collection (The Pink Panther / A Shot in the Dark / Strikes Again / Revenge of / Trail of)
Blake Edwards, Hawley Pratt, Friz Freleng Cue the Henry Mancini music and watch out for Cato—the gist of the Pink Panther series has been gathered in a six-disc boxed set. At the center of it is Peter Sellers's incarnation of inspector Jacques Clouseau, a hopelessly bumbling detective with a genius for resting his hands in the wrong place (on the surface of a spinning globe, for instance) and mangling the English language.

Writer-director Blake Edwards cast Peter Ustinov as Clouseau in The Pink Panther, but Ustinov dropped out just before shooting began. Edwards (who recounts this story in a spotty commentary track included here) and Sellers bonded over their affection for Laurel and Hardy, and immediately transformed the character of Clouseau into a walking sight gag. The first film has a delicious swinging sixties vibe, while jewel thief David Niven, Claudia Cardinale, and Capucine occupy as much screen time as Sellers. Sellers really hits his stride in A Shot in the Dark, an elegantly funny tale of Clouseau sleuthing out a murder investigation. This one introduced Herbert Lom, as the increasingly frazzled Inspector Dreyfus, and Burt Kwouk, as Clouseau's houseboy-nemesis Cato. Sellers and Edwards, whose relationship was stormy, put Clouseau aside for over 10 years, until a trilogy of mid-1970s comedies restored the character to commercial (and dare we say cultural) primacy.

Unfortunately, the very funny comeback picture, Return of the Pink Panther, is absent from this set due to rights issues with the studios involved. The Pink Panther Strikes Again has Dreyfus going bananas and targeting Clouseau;Revenge of the Pink Panther puts Clouseau in a hilarious series of disguises, climaxing in a wonderfully mounted sequence in Hong Kong. (Throughout the series, the calm, classical staging of gags by Blake Edwards reminds you of what a lost art this has become.) Trail of the Pink Panther looks better now than it did when originally released in 1982, shortly after Sellers's death; it's a batch of unused Sellers routines from previous pictures, strung together with a loose plot. In other words, it's a "deleted scenes" extra, and quite funny at times.

Subsequent efforts Curse of the Pink Panther and Son of the Pink Panther are neither included nor mentioned. A half-hour documentary gives pleasant memories from Edwards, but feels incomplete. The cartoon Panther gets his own 11-minute mini-doc, plus six cartoon shorts including the Oscar-winning "The Pink Phink."—Robert Horton
Snakes on a Plane (Widescreen New Line Platinum Series)
David R. Ellis Snakes on a Plane knows exactly what kind of movie it is, knows exactly what moviegoers expect from a title like Snakes on a Plane, and delivers the exact pleasures of a movie in which poisonous snakes are unleashed on a plane to kill an eyewitness to murder. Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, The Long Kiss Goodnight) knows exactly what he's doing in this movie and knows exactly when to pull out the superbad Samuel L. Jackson stare and deliver the infuriated Samuel L. Jackson bellow. The rest of the cast—including Julianna Margulies (ER), Rachel Blanchard (the TV series Clueless), Kenan Thompson (Fat Albert), David Koechner (Anchorman), Bobby Canavale (The Station Agent), and Sunny Mabrey (One Last Thing...)—play their parts with admirably straight faces and deadpan humor. Director David R. Ellis (Final Destination 2, Cellular) gives the movie the much-needed headlong momentum you would expect from a former stunt coordinator. In summation: A perfect piece of self-aware but not self-conscious high camp entertainment, blending comedy and thrills in perfect proportion. —Bret Fetzer
Stargate
Roland Emmerich * * * * - Before they unleashed the idiotic mayhem of Independence Day and Godzilla, the idea-stealing team of director Roland Emmerich and producer-screenwriter Dean Devlin concocted this hokey hit about the discovery of an ancient portal capable of zipping travelers to "the other side of the known universe." James Spader plays the Egyptologist who successfully translates the Stargate's hieroglyphic code, and then joins a hawkish military unit (led by Kurt Russell) on a reconnaissance mission to see what's on the other side. They arrive on a desert world with cultural (and apparently supernatural) ties to Earth's ancient Egypt, where the sun god Ra (played by Jaye Davidson from The Crying Game) rules a population of slaves with armored minions and startlingly advanced technology. After being warmly welcomed into the slave camp, the earthlings encourage and support a rebellion, and while Russell threatens to blow up the Stargate to prevent its use by enemy forces, the movie collapses into a senseless series of action scenes and grandiose explosions. It's all pretty ridiculous, but Stargate found a large and appreciative audience, spawned a cable-TV series, and continues to attract science fiction fans who are more than willing to forgive its considerable faults. —Jeff Shannon
Alien 3
David Fincher The least successful film in this series was directed by stylemaster (and content-underachiever) David Fincher. Ripley, the only survivor of her past mission, awakens on a prison planet in the far corners of the solar system. As she tries to recover, she realizes that not only has an alien gotten loose on the planet, the alien has implanted one of its own within her. As she battles the prison authorities (and is aided by the prisoners) in trying to kill the alien, she must also cope with a distinctly shortened lifespan that awaits her. But the striking imagery makes for muddled action and the script confuses it further. The ending looks startling but it takes a long time—and a not particularly satisfying journey—to get there. —Marshall Fine
Seven (New Line Platinum Series)
David Fincher The most viscerally frightening and disturbing homicidal maniac picture since The Silence of the Lambs, Seven is based on an idea that's both gruesome and ingenious. A serial killer forces each of his victims to die by acting out one of the seven deadly sins. The murder scene is then artfully arranged into a grotesque tableau, a graphic illustration of each mortal vice. From the jittery opening credits to the horrifying (and seemingly inescapable) concluding twist, director David Fancher immerses us in a murky urban twilight where everything seems to be rotting, rusting, or molding; the air is cold and heavy with dread. Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt are the detectives who skillfully track down the killer—all the while unaware that he has been closing in on them, as well. Gwyneth Paltrow and Kevin Spacey are also featured, but it is director Fancher and the ominous, overwhelmingly oppressive atmosphere of doom that he creates that are the real stars of the film. It's a terrific date movie—for vampires. —Jim Emerson
Fight Club
David Fincher All films take a certain suspension of disbelief. Fight Club takes perhaps more than others, but if you're willing to let yourself get caught up in the anarchy, this film, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk, is a modern-day morality play warning of the decay of society. Edward Norton is the unnamed protagonist, a man going through life on cruise control, feeling nothing. To fill his hours, he begins attending support groups and 12-step meetings. True, he isn't actually afflicted with the problems, but he finds solace in the groups. This is destroyed, however, when he meets Marla (Helena Bonham Carter), also faking her way through groups. Spiraling back into insomnia, Norton finds his life is changed once again, by a chance encounter with Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt), whose forthright style and no-nonsense way of taking what he wants appeal to our narrator. Tyler and the protagonist find a new way to feel release: they fight. They fight each other, and then as others are attracted to their ways, they fight the men who come to join their newly formed Fight Club. Marla begins a destructive affair with Tyler, and things fly out of control, as Fight Club grows into a nationwide fascist group that escapes the protagonist's control.

Fight Club, directed by David Fincher (Seven), is not for the faint of heart; the violence is no holds barred. But the film is captivating and beautifully shot, with some thought-provoking ideas. Pitt and Norton are an unbeatable duo, and the film has some surprisingly humorous moments. The film leaves you with a sense of profound discomfort and a desire to see it again, if for no other reason than to just to take it all in. —Jenny Brown
Quantum of Solace [Blu-ray]
Marc Forster Studio: Tcfhe/mgm Release Date: 03/24/2009 Run time: 107 minutes Rating: Pg13
The Brak Show, Vol. 1
Jim Fortier, Pete Smith (II) Long before his stint as an intergalactic pirate, and later, as an addled sidekick to Space Ghost on Cartoon Planet and Space Ghost: Coast to Coast, Brak was just a naïve, feline-esque kid living with his parents, his pal/nemesis, the evil mantis Zorak, and a massive warrior robot neighbor in the suburb of Spacetown. Fourteen of his misadventures have been compiled on this weird and frequently hilarious two-disc set, which also features a bundle of extras, all highlighted by Brak's irrepressible need for song. Written and produced by SG: CTC writers Jim Fortier and Pete Smith, and featuring several performers from that series as well (including Andy Merrill as Brak, C. Martin Croker as Zorak, and George Lowe as Brak's Dad), The Brak Show echoes its predecessor's penchant for absurd, stream-of-consciousness comedy; episodes hinge around Brak putting on a musicial ("Psychoklahoma," featuring Charo!), rescuing his mom from a lovesick alien blob ("Mobab"), a staring contest ("The Eye"), and using a time machine to finish his homework ("Time Machine"). If the premises seem too silly for words, the writing and performances (especially Merrill and Croker) are both giddy and clever, and in a very odd way, accurately evoke the anything-goes imagination of pre-teens. The show's credit sequences, which spoof popular sitcoms from the past (Laverne and Shirley, Petticoat Junction), add another layer of quirky charm.

Volume 1 compiles the entire first season of The Brak Show, and tosses in three episodes from Season 2 for good measure (the episodes are presented out of their broadcast order); commentaries by Smith, Fortier, Merrill and Brak himself are featured on three episodes, while an odd audio-only radio play of an unaired pilot is heard over a fourth. Clips from his short-lived variety show, Brak Presents The Brak Show Starring Brak, and a terrific 20-minute barrage of his best moments from Cartoon Planet and SG: CTC, round out the extras. So much Brak in a single package may be too much for the casual fan, but for the Brak obsessive in your life, this will be comedy nirvana. —Paul Gaita
The Brak Show, Vol. 2
Jim Fortier, Pete Smith (II) * * * * - The Brak Show Volume 2 compiles the final 14 episodes of this truly offbeat Cartoon Network series (2000-2004), which spun the dim-witted space pirate Brak from Cartoon Planet and Space Ghost: Coast to Coast into a very skewed sort of family sitcom, albeit one with aliens, killer robots, dissolute magicians, and an insectoid best friend who wants nothing more than to kill the star of the show. As in the first volume of The Brak Show, our hero (voiced by Andy Merrill) lives with his mom (Joanna Daniel, who replaced Marsha Crenshaw) and miniature dad (George Lowe) in a picture-perfect suburban town somewhere in deep space; this time around, Brak's adventures include entering a rap contest to win a trip to a spa resort ("Brak Street," with guest star Cee-Lo of Danger Mouse), discovering exactly what Dad does with his time ("We Ski in Peace"), and winning his own TV show in Japan ("Sexy New Brak Show Go"). It goes without saying that The Brak Show is an acquired taste for those that aren't already fanatical about Adult Swim titles, but for those that can roll with the surreal stories and humor, there are a lot of quirky laughs to be found here, especially from Merrill's performance as the slow-witted but eager Brak. Note to fans: the two-disc Volume 2 set includes no supplemental features (unlike the previous set), and also excludes the second-to-last episode, "New Year's Eve Party at Brak's House," which not only explained the future of the show's characters, but included guest appearances by the casts of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Harvey Birdman: Attorney at Law, and Sealab 2021. —Paul Gaita
Hardware Wars - The Original Edition
Ernie Fosselius San Francisco filmmaker Ernie Fosselius made the most successful short film of all time in the 1978 Hardware Wars, an inspired, mock-trailer for a nonexistent, cheapo rip-off of Star Wars. It worked like this: instead of Chewbacca, Fosselius offers the Cookie Monster. Instead of Darth Vader's breathy, slightly echoed voice emerging somehow behind that black-mask helmet, we get a villain whose every ranting utterance is so muffled even this film's Princess Leia equivalent beseeches him, "What? I don't understand you." And so on. Part of the joke is that George Lucas's revolutionary special effects are supplanted by common kitchen gizmos—mixers, toasters—that serve as spaceships and weapons sources. The updated special edition contains 20 computer-generated "special defects" that don't—the distributor boasts—at all match Fosselius's earlier version. Um... right on? —Tom Keogh
Intacto
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo This sleek, stylish thriller suggests that luck is a quality we possess, like strength or intelligence, but the more fortunate among us can steal the luck of those less charmed. When a bank robber named Tomas is the only survivor of a plane wreck, the luckless Federico thinks he's found the man who can defeat the Jew—the luckiest man alive, a Holocaust survivor who sits at the apex of a weird, underground world of increasingly dangerous gambles. But on their trail is a police detective named Sara who's pretty lucky herself—and as she learns more about how luck works, she begins to suspect she survived a car crash because she stole the luck of her husband and child, both of whom died. The stealthy story is packed with eerie visuals and charismatic performances, including Max von Sydow (truly one of the greatest actors alive) as the Jew. —Bret Fetzer
Baraka
Ron Fricke The word Baraka means "blessing" in several languages; watching this film, the viewer is blessed with a dazzling barrage of images that transcend language. Filmed in 24 countries and set to an ever-changing global soundtrack, the movie draws some surprising connections between various peoples and the spaces they inhabit, whether that space is a lonely mountaintop or a crowded cigarette factory. Some of these attempts at connection are more successful than others: for instance, an early sequence segues between the daily devotions of Tibetan monks, Orthodox Jews, and whirling dervishes, finding more similarity among these rituals than one might expect. And there are other amazing moments, as when sped-up footage of a busy Hong Kong intersection reveals a beautiful symmetry to urban life that could only be appreciated from the perspective of film. The lack of context is occasionally frustrating—not knowing where a section was filmed, or the meaning of the ritual taking place—and some of the transitions are puzzling. However, the DVD includes a short behind-the-scenes featurette in which cinematographer Ron Fricke (Koyaanisqatsi) explains that the effect was intentional: "It's not where you are that's important, it's what's there." And what's here, in Baraka, is a whole world summed up in 104 minutes. —Larisa Lomacky Moore
Chronos
Ron Fricke Taking the familiar conventions of time-lapse cinematography to a transcendent level of artistic achievement, filmmaker Ron Fricke circled the globe to make Chronos, a stunning 70-millimeter time-lapse tour of natural and man-made wonders. The entire film has the enhanced, hyper-realistic quality of a laser-etched photograph, and by using special cameras and motion-control photographic techniques, Fricke and his technically expert crew were able to create mesmerizing images guaranteed to spark any viewer's sense of awe and wonder. Accompanied by the hypnotic music of Michael Stearns, this visual journey takes the viewer on a tour of over 50 locations on nearly every continent of the world, including explorations of Paris, the Vatican, the Egyptian pyramids, the African veldt, and many more stunning vistas. The cumulative effect is the feeling that the world—from the busiest metropolis to the most serenely remote wilderness landscape—is dictated by "chronos," the rhythm of time to which all living things must submit. Like Koyaanisquatsi and Baraka, this is one of those eye-candy films that was conceived according to its specific theme, so it's not only a soothing visual experience but a thought-provoking study of our fascinating planet. —Jeff Shannon
Reefer Madness
Louis J. Gasnier Although it was made in 1936, Reefer Madness didn't become a cult hit until 1972 when the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) rescued it from the Library of Congress film archive. Thereafter, it was a mainstay on the midnight movie circuit. And it's easy to see why. The ostensible story involves a group of upstanding young high school students who succumb to the allure of the "killer weed." What follows, as if by natural progression, is a catalog of crimes that includes hit-and-run driving, loose morals, rape, murder, suicide, and my personal favorite, permanent insanity! The action is at times so hysterical, in both senses, that you may forget to inhale. Honors go to the wild-eyed, cackling hophead David O'Brien; his performance reaches a raw intensity that is hard to imagine. One measure of this film's pervasive influence is the extent to which its title continues to be invoked in news stories about decriminalization and medical marijuana. Such posterity for unintentional humor must be rare. A great film to see stoned, man. —Jim Gay
Hotel Rwanda
Terry George Solidly built around a subtle yet commanding performance by Don Cheadle, Hotel Rwanda emerged as one of the most highly-praised dramas of 2004. In a role that demands his quietly riveting presence in nearly every scene, Cheadle plays real-life hero Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager in the Rwandan capital of Kigali who in 1994 saved 1,200 Rwandan "guests" from certain death during the genocidal clash between tribal Hutus, who slaughtered a million victims, and the horrified Tutsis, who found safe haven or died. Giving his best performance since his breakthrough role in Devil in a Blue Dress, Cheadle plays Rusesabagina as he really was during the ensuing chaos: "an expert in situational ethics" (as described by critic Roger Ebert), doing what he morally had to do, at great risk and potential sacrifice, with an understanding that wartime negotiations are largely a game of subterfuge, cooperation, and clever bribery. Aided by a United Nations official (Nick Nolte), he worked a saintly miracle, and director Terry George (Some Mother's Son) brings formidable social conscience to bear on a true story you won't soon forget. —Jeff Shannon
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas - Criterion Collection
Terry Gilliam The original cowriter and director of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was Alex Cox, whose earlier film Sid and Nancy suggests that Cox could have been a perfect match in filming Hunter S. Thompson's psychotropic masterpiece of "gonzo" journalism. Unfortunately Cox departed due to the usual "creative differences," and this ill-fated adaptation was thrust upon Terry Gilliam, whose formidable gifts as a visionary filmmaker were squandered on the seemingly unfilmable elements of Thompson's ether-fogged narrative. The result is a one-joke movie without the joke—an endless series of repetitive scenes involving rampant substance abuse and the hallucinogenic fallout of a road trip that's run crazily out of control. Johnny Depp plays Thompson's alter ego, "gonzo" journalist Raoul Duke, and Benicio Del Toro is his sidekick and so-called lawyer Dr. Gonzo. During the course of a trip to Las Vegas to cover a motorcycle race, they ingest a veritable chemistry set of drugs, and Gilliam does his best to show us the hallucinatory state of their zonked-out minds. This allows for some dazzling imagery and the rampant humor of stumbling buffoons, and the mumbling performances of Depp and Del Toro wholeheartedly embrace the tripped-out, paranoid lunacy of Thompson's celebrated book. But over two hours of this insanity tends to grate on the nerves—like being the only sober guest at a party full of drunken idiots. So while Gilliam's film may achieve some modest cult status over the years, it's only because Fear and Loathing is best enjoyed by those who are just as stoned as the characters in the movie. —Jeff Shannon
Time Bandits
Terry Gilliam From a script cowritten with his fellow Monty Python veteran Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam pulled out all the stops on his prodigious imagination for this comedy-fantasy from 1981. Film critic Pauline Kael was right when she wrote, "This may be one of those rare pictures that suffers from a surfeit of good ideas," because there's not enough plot to keep pace with the sheer inventiveness of Gilliam's filmmaking. That hasn't stopped Time Bandits from becoming a classic, of sorts, attracting a cult following as a semi-reunion of the Python gang (with Palin and John Cleese making splendid appearances) and a rousing adventure of near-epic proportions. It's about a kid named Kevin (Craig Warnock) who joins a band of mischievous dwarves on a jaunt through various eras and epochs. They've stolen a map to holes in the space-time continuum that belongs to the Supreme Being (suitably played by Sir Ralph Richardson), and as Kevin survives a variety of heroic adventures, including an encounter with King Agamemnon (Sean Connery), an Evil Genius (David Warner) pursues the coveted map using his nefarious magical powers. As a warm-up for Gilliam's later, even more ambitious fantasies, Brazil and The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, this is a dazzling dose of cinematic whimsy, and Gilliam doesn't compromise the darkness of his tale with an artificially upbeat ending. There's as much menace in Time Bandits as there is an awesome sense of wonder, and that gives the movie an extra kick of timeless appeal. —Jeff Shannon
Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind
Michel Gondry Screenwriters rarely develop a distinctive voice that can be recognized from movie to movie, but the ornate imagination of Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) has made him a unique and much-needed cinematic presence. In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, a guy decides to have the memories of his ex-girlfriend erased after she's had him erased from her own memory—but midway through the procedure, he changes his mind and struggles to hang on to their experiences together. In other hands, the premise of memory-erasing would become a trashy science-fiction thriller; Kaufman, along with director Michel Gondry, spins this idea into a funny, sad, structurally complex, and simply enthralling love story that juggles morality, identity, and heartbreak with confident skill. The entire cast—Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Elijah Wood, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, and more—give superb performances, carefully pitched so that cleverness never trumps feeling. A great movie. —Bret Fetzer
Be Kind Rewind [Blu-ray]
Michel Gondry Music-video-director-turned-auteur Michel Gondry continues to charm with his low-tech offering BE KIND REWIND. Set in dreary Passaic New Jersey the comedy centers on two of the town's residents: trouble-making Jerry (Jack Black) and well-meaning Mike (Mos Def). Mike works in a video store in an age where the VHS is long dead but the store's owner Mr. Fletcher (Danny Glover) doesn't seem to be in any hurry to change. When Mr. Fletcher leaves town for a trip he entrusts his store to Mike with one piece of advice: don't let Jerry in the store. But after some mischief Jerry returns to the store in a strange state. Not only is he weirder than usual but he's also magnetized which causes the entire store's stock to be erased. In order to keep the struggling business afloat Mike and Jerry begin remaking the films in the store one by one. Their hilariously low-budget versions of films such as GHOSTBUSTERS and RUSH HOUR 2 soon begin to draw attention and business to the store but that creates a whole new set of problems for the pair. Though Gondry's three previous fiction films—HUMAN NATURE ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND and THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP—were all essentially love stories BE KIND REWIND captures another kind of romance. Both the writer-director and his characters are in love with the cinematic medium itself and their devotion shows. BE KIND REWIND doesn't reach the heights of ETERNAL SUNSHINE but it doesn't seem to be aiming for that genius. This is simply a hilarious comedy fun for film fans of all stripes which celebrates the sheer joy of watching and making films.System Requirements:Running Time: 101 minutesFormat: BLU-RAY DISC Genre: COMEDY/BUDDY FILMS Rating: PG-13 UPC: 794043123252 Manufacturer No: 1000040435
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Seth Gordon The stuff of gladiatorial battle is here: good versus evil, right versus wrong, nerd versus... super-nerd? At any rate, it's a more entertaining showdown than most fictional movies can muster. The King of Kong is the saga of Steve Wiebe, a Redmond, Washington dweeb who sets a new record in the video game Donkey Kong, only to see his accomplishment challenged by the grand poobahs of the gaming establishment. And if you don't know how pernickety the grand poobahs of the gaming establishment can be, well, one of the pleasures of this movie is finding out about this collection of oddballs. It seems Wiebe has toppled a score that has stood since 1982, when eminent "Gamer of the Century" Billy Mitchell set it, and Mitchell isn't too happy about being overthrown. A black-mulleted showboat, Mitchell provides the perfect counterpoint to Wiebe's mild-mannered family man, and the smaller fish around him are no less colorful. This is one of those movies you watch in delighted disbelief, marveling that such people exist—and that they gladly allowed themselves to be filmed. Director Seth Gordon does an important thing in presenting this world of eccentrics: he doesn't mock them, or provide editorial nudging; he simply lets them be. The result is an ingratiating classic. —Robert Horton
Blade: Trinity
David S. Goyer Even skeptical fans of the Blade franchise will enjoy sinking their teeth into Blade: Trinity. The law of diminishing returns is in full effect here, and the franchise is wearing out its welcome, but let's face it: any movie that features Jessica Biel as an ass-kicking vampire slayer and Parker Posey—yes, Parker Posey!—as a vamping vampire villainess can't be all bad, right? Those lovely ladies bring equal measures of relief and grief to Blade, the half-human, half-vampire once again played, with tongue more firmly in stone-cold cheek, by Wesley Snipes. With series writer David S. Goyer in the director's chair, the film is calculated for mainstream appeal, trading suspenseful horror for campy humor and choppy, nonsensical action. The franchise still offers some intriguing ideas, however, including Drake (Dominic Purcell), the original vampire, whose blood contains the secret that could destroy all blood-suckers in a plot that incorporates a sinister "blood farm" where humans are held—and drained—in suspended animation. And Biel's wise-cracking sidekick (Ryan Reynolds) in her cadre of "Nightstalkers" provides comic relief in a series that's grown increasingly dour. All of which makes Blade: Trinity a love-it-or-hate-it sequel... supposedly the last in a trilogy, but the ending suggests otherwise. —Jeff Shannon
The Negotiator
F. Gary Gray Although it eventually runs out of smart ideas and resorts to a typically explosive finale, this above-average thriller rises above its formulaic limitations on the strength of powerful performances by Samuel L. Jackson and Kevin Spacey. Both play Chicago police negotiators with hotshot reputations, but when Jackson's character finds himself falsely accused of embezzling funds from a police pension fund, he's so thoroughly framed that he must take extreme measures to prove his innocence. He takes hostages in police headquarters to buy time and plan his strategy, demanding that Spacey be brought in to mediate with him as an army of cops threatens to attack, and a media circus ensues. Both negotiators know how to get into the other man's thoughts, and this intellectual showdown allows both Spacey and Jackson to ignite the screen with a burst of volatile intensity. Director F. Gary Gray is disadvantaged by an otherwise predictable screenplay, but he has a knack for building suspense and is generous to a fine supporting cast, including Paul Giamatti as one of Jackson's high-strung hostages, and the late J.T. Walsh in what would sadly be his final big-screen role. The movie should have trusted its compelling characters a little more, probing their psyches more intensely to give the suspense a deeper dramatic foundation, but it's good enough to give two great actors a chance to strut their stuff. —Jeff Shannon
Robot Chicken: Star Wars
Seth Green System Requirements:Running Time: 23 minutesFormat: DVD MOVIE Genre: TELEVISION/SERIES & SEQUELS Rating: NR UPC: 883929012466 Manufacturer No: 1000037448
The Bourne Supremacy [HD DVD]
Paul Greengrass
The Bourne Ultimatum (Combo HD DVD and Standard DVD) [HD DVD]
Paul Greengrass The often breathtaking, final installment in the Bourne trilogy finds the titular assassin with no memory closing in on his past, finally answering his own questions about his real identity and how he came to be a seemingly unstoppable killing machine. Matt Damon returns for another intensely physical performance as Jason Bourne, the rogue operative at war with the CIA, which made him who and what he is and managed to kill his girlfriend in the series' second film, The Bourne Supremacy. Now looking for payback, Bourne goes in search for the renegade chief of CIA operations in Europe and North Africa, partnering for a time with a mysterious woman from his past (Julia Stiles) and constantly—constantly—on the run from assassins, intelligence foot soldiers, and cops. Directed by Paul Greengrass (United 93) with the director's thrilling, trademark textures and shaky, documentary style, The Bourne Ultimatum is largely a succession of action scenes that reveal a lot about the story's characters while they're under duress. Joan Allen, Albert Finney, David Strathairn, Scott Glenn, and Paddy Considine comprise the film's terrific supporting cast, and the well-traveled movie leads viewers through Turin, Madrid, Tangiers, Paris, London, and New York. Overall, this is a satisfying conclusion to Bourne's exciting and protracted mystery. —Tom Keogh

Beyond The Bourne Ultimatum on DVD

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Stills from The Bourne Ultimatum (Click for larger image)
Ray
Taylor Hackford Excellent condition, includes the DVD, case, and paperwork, different cover page but same movie, fast shipped, ask me for my DVD List! :)
American Psycho
Mary Harron The Bret Easton Ellis novel American Psycho, a dark, violent satire of the "me" culture of Ronald Reagan's 1980s, is certainly one of the most controversial books of the '90s, and that notoriety fueled its bestseller status. This smart, savvy adaptation by Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol) may be able to ride the crest of the notoriety; prior to the film's release, Harron fought a ratings battle (ironically, for depictions of sex rather than violence), but at the time the director stated, "We're rescuing [the book] from its own bad reputation." Harron and co-screenwriter Guinevere Turner (Go Fish) overcome many of the objections of Ellis's novel by keeping the most extreme violence offscreen (sometimes just barely), suggesting the reign of terror of yuppie killer Patrick Bateman (Christian Bale) with splashes of blood and personal souvenirs. Bale is razor sharp as the blank corporate drone, a preening tiger in designer suits whose speaking voice is part salesman, part self-help guru, and completely artificial. Carrying himself with the poised confidence of a male model, he spends his days in a numbing world of status-symbol one-upmanship and soul-sapping small talk, but breaks out at night with smirking explosions of homicide, accomplished with the fastidious care of a hopeless obsessive. The film's approach to this mayhem is simultaneously shocking and discreet; even Bateman's outrageous naked charge with a chainsaw is most notable for the impossibly polished and gleaming instrument of death. Harron's film is a hilarious, cheerfully insidious hall of mirrors all pointed inward, slowly cracking as the portrait becomes increasingly grotesque and insane. —Sean Axmaker
Labyrinth
Jim Henson Sarah (a teenage Jennifer Connelly) rehearses the role of a fairy-tale queen, performing for her stuffed animals. She is about to discover that the time has come to leave her childhood behind. In real life she has to baby-sit her brother and contend with parents who don't understand her at all. Her petulance leads her to call the goblins to take the baby away, but when they actually do, she realizes her responsibility to rescue him. Sarah negotiates the Labyrinth to reach the City of the Goblins and the castle of their king. The king is the only other human in the film and is played by a glam-rocking David Bowie, who performs five of his songs. The rest of the cast are puppets, a wonderful array of Jim Henson's imaginative masterpieces. Henson gives credit to children's author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, and the creatures in the movie will remind Sendak fans of his drawings. The castle of the king is a living M.C. Escher set that adults will enjoy. The film combines the highest standards of art, costume, and set decoration. Like executive producer George Lucas's other fantasies, Labyrinth mixes adventure with lessons about growing up. —Lloyd Chesley
The Dark Crystal
Jim Henson, Frank Oz Jim Henson's fantasy epic The Dark Crystal doesn't take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but like Star Wars it takes the audience to a place that exists only in the imagination and, for an hour and a half, on the screen. Recalling the worlds of J.R.R. Tolkien, Henson tells the story of a race of grotesque birdlike lizards called the Skeksis, gnomish dragons who rule their fantastic planet with an iron claw. A prophecy tells of a Gelfling (a small elfin being) who will topple their empire, so in their reign of terror they have exterminated the race, or so they think. The orphan Jen, raised in solitude by a race of peace-loving wizards called the Mystics, embarks on a quest to find the missing shard of the Dark Crystal (which gives the Skeksis their power) and restore the balance of the universe. Henson and codirector Frank Oz have pushed puppetry into a new direction: traditional puppets, marionettes, giant bodysuits, and mechanical constructions are mixed seamlessly in a fantasy world of towering castles, simple huts, dank caves, a giant clockwork observatory, and a magnificent landscape that seem to have leaped off the pages of a storybook. Muppet fans will recognize many of the voice actors—a few characters sound awfully close to familiar comic creations—but otherwise it's a completely alien world made familiar by a mythic quest that resonates through stories over the ages. —Sean Axmaker
Muppets From Space
Tim Hill (III) The film that answers the immortal question: what species is Gonzo? Kermit the Frog's curly-nosed friend feels alone in the world. When his breakfast cereal starts spelling out questions and he hears voices, Gonzo is convinced he must be from outer space, and his alien brothers are coming to earth. Of course, there are evil scientists (led by Jeffrey Tambor) who kidnap Gonzo to learn his secrets (like "What do you do with a nose like that?"). The usual brand of merriment from the gang is in good order, especially in the opening scene when the Muppets start the morning under one roof. It's not as memorable as earlier films, but nevertheless the joy and sly humor will warm most souls age 5 and up. Human cameos include Ray Liotta, Rob Schneider, Josh Charles, Andie MacDowell, David Arquette, and F. Murray Abraham (as Noah, no less). —Doug Thomas
Red Planet
Anthony Hoffman In Red Planet, the only thing thicker than the Martian atmosphere (which is breathable, by the way) is the layer of clichés that nearly smothers a formulaic beat-the-clock plot. Science fiction fans are sure to be forgiving, however, because the film is reasonably intelligent, boasts a few dazzling sequences, and presents fascinating technology in the year 2057. We don't know how the Mars-1 spaceship gets to Mars in only six months (newfangled propulsion, no doubt), but we do get some cool diagnostic readouts on tinfoil scrolls, an abundance of well-designed hardware, and a service-robot-turned-villain that's a high-tech hybrid of RoboCop, Bruce Lee, and a slinky panther with plenty of lethal attitude.

The oxygen in the Martian atmosphere has resulted from nascent efforts of terraforming, made necessary by Earth's overpolluted condition. Mars-1 has been dispatched to determine why the terraforming is failing, and upon arrival everything goes inevitably haywire. Nearly two hours, three deaths, and multiple crises later (including the discovery of a Martian life form), "space janitor" Val Kilmer and his ultracompetent commander (Carrie-Anne Moss from The Matrix) have collaborated to set things right, capped off by second dose of the wretched narration that bookends the movie. Hoary material, to be sure, and as a veteran of TV commercials making his feature debut, director Anthony Hoffman is clearly more comfortable with flashy visuals than depth of character. Still, he keeps things humming right along. A perfectly suitable companion to another 2000 sci-fi thriller, Pitch Black, Red Planet is a fine way to kill a couple of hours. —Jeff Shannon
The Wizard
Todd Holland * * * - - Less raunchy than Tommy and more conventional than Tron, The Wizard also revolves around gaming. There's even a Bridges on board. In Tron it was Jeff, in The Wizard it's Beau. As opposed to the rock opera's pinball-playing "deaf, dumb, and blind kid," however, quasi-catatonic Jimmy (Luke Edwards) is a video game wiz. While the nine-year-old lives with his mother, half-brothers Corey (Fred Savage, circa The Wonder Years) and Nick (Christian Slater, fresh from Heathers) live with their father, Sam (Bridges). When Jimmy, who recently lost his sister, is placed in a home, Corey busts him out for a trip to California. (Today, Jimmy's condition would be labeled post-traumatic stress disorder.) As they're leaving Utah, they join forces with gaming enthusiast Haley (Rilo Kiley's Jenny Lewis), who suggests LA's National Video Game Championships. So, off they go by foot, skateboard, and the kindness of strangers. Sam, Nick, and obnoxious bounty hunter Putnam (Will Seltzer) are close behind. The outcome may be a foregone conclusion—the fractured family makes their peace—but The Wizard still offers a nostalgic, Nintendo-laden look at 1980s gamer culture (Power Glove, Super Mario Bros. 3, etc.). Plus, sharp-eyed viewers will spot Toby Maguire milling around before the showdown at Universal Studios Theme Park. If not for the hitchhiking, gambling, and reckless automotive destruction—after Putnam takes a knife to Sam's tires, Sam smashes his headlights with a shovel—the movie would be appropriate for all ages. In other words, it earns its PG rating. —Kathleen C. Fennessy
Predator 2 (Sen)
Stephen Hopkins Predator wreaked havoc in the jungle and struck box-office gold, so Hollywood logic dictated that Predator 2 should raise hell in the big, bad city. Los Angeles, to be specific, and this near-future L.A. (circa 1997) is an ultra-violent playground for the invisibility-cloaked alien that hunted Arnold Schwarzenegger in the previous film. Scant explanation is given for the creature's return, and because Ah-nuld was busy making Total Recall, Danny Glover was awkwardly installed as the maverick cop (is there any other kind?) who defies a government goon (Gary Busey) to curtail the alien's inner-city killing spree. But why bother, when the victims are scummy Colombian drug lords? Don't look for intelligent answers; director Stephen Hopkins favors wall-to-wall action over sensible plotting, allowing Stan Winston's more prominently featured Predator to join the ranks of iconic movie monsters. And anticipating Alien vs. Predator in comic books and in theaters, there's a familiar-looking skull in the Predator's trophy case! —Jeff Shannon
Babel [HD DVD]
Alejandro González Iñárritu Paramount Babel - HD DVD

In "Babel," a tragic incident involving an American couple in Morocco sparks a chain of events for four families in different countries throughout the world. In the struggle to overcome isolation, fear, and displacement, each character discovers that it is family that ultimately provides solace. In the remote sands of the Moroccandesert, a rifle shot rings out? detonating a chain of events that will link an American tourist couple's frantic struggle to survive, two Moroccan boys involved in an accidental crime, a nanny illegally crossing into Mexico with two American children and a Japanese teen rebel whose father is soughtby the police in Tokyo. Separated by clashing cultures and sprawling distances, each of these four disparate groups of people are nevertheless hurtling towards a shared destiny of isolation and grief. In the course of just a few days, they will eachface the dizzying sensation of becoming profoundly lost ? lost in the desert, lost to the world, lost to themselves ? as they are pushed to the farthest edges of confusion and fear as well as to the very depths of connection and love. In this mesmerizing, emotional film that was shot in three continents and four languages ? and traverses both the deeply personal and the explosively political ? acclaimed director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu ("21 Grams,""Amores Perros") explores with shattering realism the nature of the barriers that seem to separate humankind. In doing so, he evokes the ancient concept of "Babel" and questions its modern dayimplications: the mistaken identities, misunderstandings and missed chances for communication that,though often unseen, drive our contemporary lives. Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal, Koji Yakusho, Adriana Barraza and Rinko Kikuchi lead an international ensemble of actors and non-professional actors from Morocco, Tijuana and Tokyo, who enrich "Babel's" take on cultural diversity andenhance its pow
The Lord of the Rings - The Motion Picture Trilogy
Peter Jackson, Viggo Mortensen The extended editions of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings present the greatest trilogy in film history in the most ambitious sets in DVD history. In bringing J.R.R. Tolkien's nearly unfilmable work to the screen, Jackson benefited from extraordinary special effects, evocative New Zealand locales, and an exceptionally well-chosen cast, but most of all from his own adaptation with co-writers Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, preserving Tolkien's vision and often his very words, but also making logical changes to accommodate the medium of film. While purists complained about these changes and about characters and scenes left out of the films, the almost two additional hours of material in the extended editions (about 11 hours total) help appease them by delving more deeply into Tolkien's music, the characters, and loose ends that enrich the story, such as an explanation of the Faramir-Denethor relationship, and the appearance of the Mouth of Sauron at the gates of Mordor. In addition, the extended editions offer more bridge material between the films, further confirming that the trilogy is really one long film presented in three pieces (which is why it's the greatest trilogy ever—there—there's no weak link). The scene of Galadriel's gifts to the Fellowship added to the first film proves significant over the course of the story, while the new Faramir scene at the end of the second film helps set up the third and the new Saruman scene at the beginning of the third film helps conclude the plot of the second.

To top it all off, the extended editions offer four discs per film: two for the longer movie, plus four commentary tracks and stupendous DTS 6.1 ES sound; and two for the bonus material, which covers just about everything from script creation to special effects. The argument was that fans would need both versions because the bonus material is completely different, but the features on the theatrical releases are so vastly inferior that the only reason a fan would need them would be if they wanted to watch the shorter versions they saw in theaters (the last of which, The Return of the King, merely won 11 Oscars). The LOTR extended editions without exception have set the DVD standard by providing a richer film experience that pulls the three films together and further embraces Tolkien's world, a reference-quality home theater experience, and generous, intelligent, and engrossing bonus features. —David Horiuchi
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Garth Jennings Don't panic! After twenty years stuck in development (a mere blink compared to how long it takes to find the answer to life, the universe, and everything), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy has finally been turned into a movie. Following the radio play, TV series, commemorative towel, and books, this latest installment in the sci-fi-comedy franchise is based on the screenplay and detailed notes by Douglas Adams.

Hitching a ride.

For those unfamiliar with the story, everyman Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) wakes up one morning to discover that his house is set to be demolished to make room for a bypass. Little does he know the entire planet Earth is also set to be destroyed for an interplanetary bypass by the Vogons, a hideous and bureaucratic race of aliens realized in the film by Jim Henson's Creature Shop. Whisked off the planet by his best friend, alien-in-disguise Ford Prefect (Mos Def), Dent embarks on a goofy jaunt across the galaxy accompanied by his trusty Hitchhiker's Guide, which looks like a really fancy PDA.

The guide itself provides some of the funniest bits of the movie, little animated shorts that explain the ludicrous life forms and extraterrestrial phenomena our heroes encounter. Along the way Arthur meets the two-headed party animal/president of the galaxy Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell) and develops an unrequited crush on fellow earthling Trillian (Zooey Deschanel). The creatures and sets are inspired and answer to the sci-fi fan's primal need to see lots and lots of cool stuff. In particular, there's John Malkovich's creepy, CGI-enhanced Humma Kavula. He's a guru leading a religion that worships the gigantic nose that allegedly sneezed the universe into existence (naturally all their prayers end not with "Amen" but with "Bless you.") The aliens the team encounters are inspired creations, eminently worthy of action figure-ification, and the sets belie an attention to detail worthy of freeze-framing. Fans of the other Hitchhiker manifestations, namely the British TV series, will be amused by a number of in-jokes sprinkled throughout the movie.

Concept art: The Heart of Gold pod on the planet Vogsphere

Where the story stumbles is in the telling—as books, the Hitchhiker's Guide was foremost about goofy and brilliant ideas that raised questions about our place in the universe while getting a laugh. The cast seems at times bewildered, at least when Sam Rockwell isn't picking pieces of scenery out of his teeth, perhaps a natural reaction to an adaptation of a book with no traditional plot. The movie has enough trouble figuring out how to get the characters from one fantastical location to the next that Adams's funniest concepts often feel left in the dust. While the reverence the filmmakers felt toward Adams's legacy is apparent, one wonders what we could have expected had the creator of this science fiction universe lived to see it with his own eyes. — Ryan Boudinot

A Guide to the Guide

The Soundtrack

The Radio Play (CD)

The TV Series

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide (Deluxe Edition)

The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide (Paperback)

The Filming of the Douglas Adams Classic (book)

Interviews with The Cast and Director

Watch our interviews with the cast and director of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and find out what they think of other DVDs and books: 

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Amélie
Jean-Pierre Jeunet Perhaps the most charming movie of all time, Amélie is certainly one of the top 10. The title character (the bashful and impish Audrey Tautou) is a single waitress who decides to help other lonely people fix their lives. Her widowed father yearns to travel but won't, so to inspire the old man she sends his garden gnome on a tour of the world; with whispered gossip, she brings together two cranky regulars at her café; she reverses the doorknobs and reprograms the speed dial of a grocer who's mean to his assistant. Gradually she realizes her own life needs fixing, and a chance meeting leads to her most elaborate stratagem of all. This is a deeply wonderful movie, an illuminating mix of magic and pragmatism. Fans of the director's previous films (Delicatessen, The City of Lost Children) will not be disappointed; newcomers will be delighted. —Bret Fetzer
Alien Resurrection
Jean-Pierre Jeunet Perhaps these films are like the Star Trek movies: The even-numbered episodes are the best ones. Certainly this film (directed by French stylist Jean-Pierre Jeunet) is an improvement over Alien 3, with a script that breathes exciting new life into the franchise. This chapter is set even further in the future, where scientists on a space colony have cloned both the alien and Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), who died in Alien 3; in doing so, however, they've mixed alien DNA with Ripley's human chromosomes, which gives Ripley surprising power (and a bad attitude). A band of smugglers comes aboard only to discover the new race of aliens—and when the multi-mouthed melonheads get loose, no place is safe. But, on the plus side, they have Ripley as a guide to help them get out. Winona Ryder is on hand as the smugglers' most unlikely crew member (with a secret of her own), but this one is Sigourney's all the way. —Marshall Fine
A Very Long Engagement
Jean-Pierre Jeunet Both epic and intimate, A Very Long Engagement reunites Audrey Tautou and Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the star and director of the hugely popular Amelie. A young woman named Mathilde (Tautou, Happenstance)separated from her lover by World War I refuses to believe he's been killed and launches an investigation into his fate—an investigation that spins in all directions, creating dozens of miniature stories (including that of an Italian prostitute avenging the death of her own lover by elaborate means) that shift to and fro in time. The dazzling curlicues of narrative put brutality and tenderness back to back, shifting between crushing inevitabilities and miraculous rescues with deft storytelling skill and the lush visual style of the director of Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. Through it all, Tautou—fierce and luminous—anchors the movie effortlessly. She's among the most emotionally engaging actresses in cinema, with the kind of expressive beauty that transcends language. A gorgeous, far-reaching film; the huge cast also includes Jodie Foster (The Silence of the Lambs), Gaspard Ulliel (Strayed), and Dominique Pinon (Alien: Resurrection). —Bret Fetzer
Daredevil
Mark Steven Johnson Darker than its popular comic-book predecessor Spider-Man, the $80 million extravaganza Daredevil was packaged for maximum global appeal, its juvenile plot beginning when 12-year-old Matt Murdock is accidentally blinded shortly before his father is murdered. Later an adult attorney in New York's Hell's Kitchen, Murdock (Ben Affleck) uses his remaining, superenhanced senses to battle crime as Daredevil, the masked and vengeful "man without fear," pitted against dominant criminal Kingpin (Michael Clarke Duncan) and the psychotic Bullseye (Colin Farrell), who can turn almost anything into a deadly projectile. Daredevil is well matched with the dynamic Elektra (Jennifer Garner), but their teaming is as shallow as the movie itself, which is peppered with Marvel trivia and cameo appearances (creator Stan Lee, Clerks director and Daredevil devotee Kevin Smith) and enough computer-assisted stuntwork to give Spidey a run for his money. This is Hollywood product at its most lavishly vacuous; die-hard fans will argue its merits while its red-leathered hero swoops and zooms toward a sequel. —Jeff Shannon
Over the Hedge
Tim Johnson, Karey Kirkpatrick The manicured lawns and overstuffed garbage cans of suburbia become a buffet for woodland creatures in Over the Hedge. A self-centered raccoon named RJ (voiced by Bruce Willis, Die Hard) steals and accidentally destroys the hoard of an angry bear (Nick Nolte, 48 Hours), who gives the raccoon a week to replace it. RJ despairs—until he meets an odd gang of foragers, ranging from a turtle named Verne (Garry Shandling, The Larry Sanders Show), a father/daughter duo of opossums (the bizarre pairing of William Shatner and pop singer Avril Lavigne), a family of porcupines (with A Mighty Wind's Eugene Levy and Catherine O'Hara as the parents), and a hyperactive squirrel named Hammy (Steve Carell, The 40 Year Old Virgin). By convincing these friendly beasts that the suburban homesteads on the other side of a recently erected hedge are a mother-lode of cast-off food, RJ hopes to dupe them into doing his gathering. But when the suburban residents realize they've been invaded by woodland pests, an exterminator is called to take care of the problem. The overarching storyline of Over the Hedge is pure formula—your basic "family matters more than anything" lesson—but moment to moment, the movie is delightfully crisp and clever. The animation is topnotch, the acting is excellent (other voices include those of Allison Janney, The West Wing, and Thomas Haden Church, Sideways), and the satirical jabs at consumerism are actually funny. An above-average animated movie. —Bret Fetzer

Stills from Over the Hedge (click for larger image)
Idiocracy
Mike Judge From Mike Judge, one of the creative minds behind Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill and Office Space, comes an outrageous sci-fi comedy that'll make you think twice about the future of mankind.

Meet Joe Bowers (Luke Wilson). He's not the sharpest tool in the shed. But when a government hibernation experiment goes awry, Bowers awakens in the year 2505 to find a society so dumbed-down by mass commercialism and mindless TV programming that he's become the smartest guy on the planet. Now it's up to an average Joe to get human evolution back on track!

Filled with razor-sharp sarcasm and outrageous sight gags, Idiocracy will make you laugh out loud whether you're an absolute genius or a complete idiot!
Journey Into Amazing Caves (Large Format)
Stephen Judson Directed by Stephen Judson (Everest, the Oscar®-nominated short Dolphins) and narrated by Liam Neeson (the voice behind Everest and The Endurance), Journey into Amazing Caves centers around the work of "cavers" Nancy Aulenbach and Dr. Hazel Barton. Aulenbach is a teacher from Georgia, and Barton, a microbiologist from England. During the course of the 38-minute documentary, they travel from Arizona to Greenland to Mexico, exploring remote caves all the way. All are difficult to get to; some can only be reached by rock climbing (the cave in the Grand Canyon), others can only be reached by rappelling down slick sheets of ice (the one in Greenland). As a result, there's something for everyone in this popular IMAX feature, including a dramatic score from the Moody Blues (reworked versions of old hits, plus new songs "Water" and "We Can Fly") and a revealing "making of" documentary featuring interviews with cast and crew. —Kathleen C. Fennessy
Donnie Darko
Richard Kelly (II) This unclassifiable but stunningly original film obliterates the walls between teen comedy, science fiction, family drama, horror, and cultural satire—and remains wildly entertaining throughout. Jake Gyllenhaal (October Sky) stars as Donnie, a borderline-schizophrenic adolescent for whom there is no difference between the signs and wonders of reality (a plane crash that decimates his house) and hallucination (a man-sized, reptilian rabbit who talks to him). Obsessed with the science of time travel and acutely aware of the world around him, Donnie is isolated by his powers of analysis and the apocalyptic visions that no one else seems to share. The debut feature of writer-director Richard Kelly, Donnie Darko is a shattering, hypnotic work that sets its own terms and gambles—rightfully so, as it turns out—that a viewer will stay aboard for the full ride. —Tom Keogh
Harvey
Henry Koster James Stewart stars as Elwood P. Dowd, a wealthy alcoholic whose sunny disposition and drunken antics are tolerated by most of the citizens of his community. That is, until Elwood begins to claim that he has a friend named Harvey who is an invisisble six foot rabbit. Elwood's snooty socialite sister, Veta, determined to marry off her daughter Myrtle to a respectable man, begins to plot to keep Elwood's lunacy from interfering.
2001 - A Space Odyssey
Stanley Kubrick When Stanley Kubrick recruited Arthur C. Clarke to collaborate on "the proverbial intelligent science fiction film," it's a safe bet neither the maverick auteur nor the great science fiction writer knew they would virtually redefine the parameters of the cinema experience. A daring experiment in unconventional narrative inspired by Clarke's short story "The Sentinel,"2001 is a visual tone poem (barely 40 minutes of dialogue in a 139-minute film) that charts a phenomenal history of human evolution. From the dawn-of-man discovery of crude but deadly tools in the film's opening sequence to the journey of the spaceship Discovery and metaphysical birth of the "star child" at film's end, Kubrick's vision is meticulous and precise. In keeping with the director's underlying theme of dehumanization by technology, the notorious, seemingly omniscient computer HAL 9000 has more warmth and personality than the human astronauts it supposedly is serving. (The director also leaves the meaning of the black, rectangular alien monoliths open for discussion.) This theme, in part, is what makes 2001 a film like no other, though dated now that its postmillennial space exploration has proven optimistic compared to reality. Still, the film is timelessly provocative in its pioneering exploration of inner- and outer-space consciousness. With spectacular, painstakingly authentic special effects that have stood the test of time, Kubrick's film is nothing less than a cinematic milestone—puzzling, provocative, and perfect. —Jeff Shannon
Barry Lyndon
Stanley Kubrick In 1975 the world was at Stanley Kubrick's feet. His films Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and A Clockwork Orange, released in the previous dozen years, had provoked rapture and consternation—not merely in the film community, but in the culture at large. On the basis of that smashing hat trick, Kubrick was almost certainly the most famous film director of his generation, and absolutely the one most likely to rewire the collective mind of the movie audience. And what did this radical, at-least-20-years-ahead-of-his-time filmmaker give the world in 1975? A stately, three-hour costume drama based on an obscure Thackeray novel from 1844. A picaresque story about an Irish lad (Ryan O'Neal, then a major star) who climbs his way into high society, Barry Lyndon bewildered some critics (Pauline Kael called it "an ice-pack of a movie") and did only middling business with patient audiences. The film was clearly a technical advance, with its unique camerawork (incorporating the use of prototype Zeiss lenses capable of filming by actual candlelight) and sumptuous production design. But its hero is a distinctly underwhelming, even unsympathetic fellow, and Kubrick does not try to engage the audience's emotions in anything like the usual way.

Why, then, is Barry Lyndon a masterpiece? Because it uncannily captures the shape and rhythm of a human life in a way few other films have; because Kubrick's command of design and landscape is never decorative but always apiece with his hero's journey; and because every last detail counts. Even the film's chilly style is thawed by the warm narration of the great English actor Michael Hordern and the Irish songs of the Chieftains. Poor Barry's life doesn't matter much in the end, yet the care Kubrick brings to the telling of it is perhaps the director's most compassionate gesture toward that most peculiar species of animal called man. And the final, wry title card provides the perfect Kubrickian sendoff—a sentiment that is even more poignant since Kubrick's premature death. —Robert Horton
A Clockwork Orange
Stanley Kubrick Stanley Kubrick's striking visual interpretation of Anthony Burgess's famous novel is a masterpiece. Malcolm McDowell delivers a clever, tongue-in-cheek performance as Alex, the leader of a quartet of droogs, a vicious group of young hoodlums who spend their nights stealing cars, fighting rival gangs, breaking into people's homes, and raping women. While other directors would simply exploit the violent elements of such a film without subtext, Kubrick maintains Burgess's dark, satirical social commentary. We watch Alex transform from a free-roaming miscreant into a convict used in a government experiment that attempts to reform criminals through an unorthodox new medical treatment. The catch, of course, is that this therapy may be nothing better than a quick cure-all for a society plagued by rampant crime. A Clockwork Orange works on many levels—visual, social, political, and sexual—and is one of the few films that hold up under repeated viewings. Kubrick not only presents colorfully arresting images, he also stylizes the film by utilizing classical music (and Wendy Carlos's electronic classical work) to underscore the violent scenes, which even today are disturbing in their display of sheer nihilism. Ironically, many fans of the film have missed that point, sadly being entertained by its brutality rather than being repulsed by it. —Bryan Reesman
Eyes Wide Shut
Stanley Kubrick It was inevitable that Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut would be the most misunderstood film of 1999. Kubrick died four months prior to its release, and there was no end to speculation how much he would have tinkered with the picture, changed it, "fixed" it. We'll never know. But even without the haunting enigma of the director's death—and its eerie echo/anticipation in the scene when Dr. Bill Harford (Tom Cruise) visits the deathbed of one of his patients—Eyes Wide Shut would have perplexed and polarized viewers and reviewers. After all, virtually every movie of Kubrick's post-U.S. career had; only 1964's Dr. Strangelove opened to something approaching consensus. Quite apart from the author's tinkering, Kubrick's movies themselves always seemed to change—partly because they changed us, changed the world and the ways we experienced and understood it. And we may expect Eyes Wide Shut to do the same. Unlike Kubrick himself, it has time.

So consider, as we settle in to live with this long, advisedly slow, mesmerizing film, how challenging and ambiguous its narrative strategy is. The source is an Arthur Schnitzler novella titled Traumnovelle (or "Dream Story"), and it's a moot question how much of Eyes Wide Shut itself is dream, from the blue shadows frosting the Harfords' bedroom to the backstage replica of New York's Greenwich Village that Kubrick built in England. Its major movement is an imaginative night-journey (even the daylight parts of it) taken by a man reeling from his wife's teasing confession of fantasized infidelity, and toward the end there is a token gesture of the couple waking to reality and, perhaps, a new, chastened maturity. Yet on some level—visually, psychologically, logically—every scene shimmers with unreality. Is everything in the movie a dream? And if so, who is dreaming it at any given moment, and why?

Don't settle for easy answers. Kubrick's ultimate odyssey beckons. And now the dream is yours. —Richard T. Jameson
Lolita
Stanley Kubrick When director Stanley Kubrick released his film adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel about a hopelessly pathetic middle-aged professor's sexual obsession with his 12-year-old stepdaughter, the ads read, "How did they ever make a film of Lolita?" The answer is "they" didn't. As he did with his "adaptations" of Barry Lyndon, A Clockwork Orange, and, especially, The Shining, Kubrick used the source material and, simply put, made another Stanley Kubrick movie—even though Nabokov himself wrote the screenplay. The chilly director nullifies Humbert Humbert's (James Mason's) overwhelming passion and desire, and instead transforms the story, like many of his films, into that of a man trapped and ruined by social codes and by his own obsessions. Kubrick doesn't play this as tragedy, however, but rather as both a black-as-coffee screwball comedy and a meandering, episodic road movie. The early scenes between Humbert, Lolita (a too-old but suitably teasing Lyons) and her loud, garish mother (Shelley Winters in one of her funniest performances) play like a wonderful farce. When Humbert finally fulfills his desires and captures Lolita, the pair hit the road and Kubrick drags in Peter Sellers. As the pedophilic writer Clare Quilty—Humbert—Humbert's playful doppelgänger and biggest threat—Sellers dons a series of disguises with plans of stealing Lolita away from her captor. It's here more than anywhere that Kubrick comes closest to the novel. He extends Nabokov's idea of the games and puzzles played between reader and writer, Quilty and Humbert, Lolita and Humbert, etc., to those between filmmaker and audience: the road eventually goes nowhere and Humbert's reality is exposed as mad delusion. Perhaps not a Kubrick masterpiece, or the provocative film many wanted, Lolita still remains playfully fascinating and one of Kubrick's strongest, funniest character studies. —Dave McCoy
The Shining
Stanley Kubrick Stanley Kubrick's The Shining is less an adaptation of Stephen King's bestselling horror novel than a complete reimagining of it from the inside out. In King's book, the Overlook Hotel is a haunted place that takes possession of its off-season caretaker and provokes him to murderous rage against his wife and young son. Kubrick's movie is an existential Road Runner cartoon (his steadicam scurrying through the hotel's labyrinthine hallways), in which the cavernously empty spaces inside the Overlook mirror the emptiness in the soul of the blocked writer, who's settled in for a long winter's hibernation. As many have pointed out, King's protagonist goes mad, but Kubrick's Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson) is Looney Tunes from the moment we meet him—all arching eyebrows and mischievous grin. (Both Nicholson and Shelley Duvall reach new levels of hysteria in their performances, driven to extremes by the director's fanatical demands for take after take after take.) The Shining is terrifying—but not in the way fans of the novel might expect. When it was redone as a TV miniseries (reportedly because of King's dissatisfaction with the Kubrick film), the famous topiary-animal attack (which was deemed impossible to film in 1980) was there—but the deeper horror was lost. Kubrick's The Shining gets under your skin and chills your bones; it stays with you, inhabits you, haunts you. And there's no place to hide... —Jim Emerson
Akira Kurosawa's Dreams (Sub)
Akira Kurosawa, Ishirô Honda Produced with assistance from George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, Dreams is an omnibus of eight short stories and parables that spell enchantment at every turn. The opening story, "Sun Under the Rain," emerges from director Akira Kurosawa's personal memories, as a child (whose house is modeled after Kurosawa's childhood home in Koishikawa) witnesses a fox's wedding ceremony in a magical forest. The Garden of Eden motif continues in "The Peach Orchard," while Lucas's ILM special effects group shines in the glorious "Crows" segment, in which an art admirer finds himself living within the paintings of Van Gogh (played with concentrated energy by Kurosawa enthusiast Martin Scorsese). In the idyllic closing fable, "The Village of the Watermills," a centenarian claims that "people nowadays have forgotten that they are also part of nature." The equally wise Kurosawa reinforces the old man's claim through these vivid but ultimately life-affirming tableaux. —Kevin Mulhall
Aeon Flux
Karyn Kusama * * * - - Like the animated series it's based on, Aeon Flux is the kind of sci-fi that's best appreciated by the MTV generation. It's a serious attempt at stylized, futuristic action/adventure (the title character, played by Charlize Theron, is essentially a female James Bond for the cyberpunk era) and taken for what it is, it's not all that bad. The action takes place in the year 2415, four centuries after a virus nearly decimated the human race, leaving only five million survivors in a utopian city called Bregna. Aeon belongs to the Monicans, a secret rebel resistance force that is struggling to destroy the Goodchild regime led by its namesake, Trevor Goodchild (Martin Csokas), the ruler of Bregna and a descendant of the man who found a cure for the deadly virus. As instructed by the Handler (Frances McDormand, gamely playing along in ridiculous sci-fi regalia), Aeon is assigned to assassinate Goodchild, but there are deeper secrets to be discovered, and conspiracies to be foiled. This leads director Karyn Kusama (who fared much better with her debut feature Girlfight) to indulge in all sorts of routine action and fast-paced gunplay, but the elusive pleasures of Aeon Flux are mostly found in the sleek athleticism of Theron and costar Sophie Okonedo (as a fellow Monican), who commit themselves 100% to roles that are dramatically flat yet physically dynamic. Other highlights include Aeon's high-tech gadgetry (including an eyeball that doubles as a microsocope) and the amusing sight of Pete Postlethwaite in a costume resembling a construction-site disposal tube, but Flux fans may wonder what happened to the surreal, chromium sheen future that gave the MTV series its visionary appeal. As a live-action feature, Aeon Flux is a miscalculated exercise in cheesy style and dour tone, but it's entertaining enough to earn a small cadre of admirers. —Jeff Shannon
Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death
J.F. Lawton * * * * * Mix two parts Apocalypse Now with equal parts Raiders of the Lost Ark and any feminist studies text and you'll come up with Cannibal Women in the Avocado Jungle of Death. Shannon Tweed (of Playboy Playmate of the Year fame) and Bill Maher (Politically Incorrect) travel deep into the Uncharted Avocado Jungle of southern California on a mission for the U.S. government to find the ancient Piranha Women. See, the government wants to avert an avocado shortage precipitated by the Piranha Women's occupation of the jungle; that and the Piranha Women have this little peccadillo of eating their men, thus posing a threat to our phallocentric way of life. Tweed is supposed to convince them to move to Malibu condos, where they can continue eating men if they like, so long as we can get in there and get those avocados. Accompanying the duo on their mission, for contrast, is a Home Ec major named Bunny whose secret fantasy is to be tied up with red licorice whip, and who wants to join the Piranha Women so she can get one of those cute outfits. The previous envoy for the Military, one Dr. Kurtz (Adrienne Barbeau), an anthropologist and feminist, never came back, instead becoming the leader of the threatening Piranha Women. Yet she's really interested in writing an exposé about her time in the jungle ("a kiss-sacrifice-and-tell book") so she can get back on the talk show circuit. "You don't know what it's like trying to face David Letterman with a book on male insensitivity.... The horror, the horror!" Thoroughly smart and entertaining, with hilarious dialogue that never flags. —Jim Gay
Feed
Brett Leonard * * * * - Intensely grotesque and shocking as hell, Feed is a heavyweight thrill ride through the depths of depravity. A veteran of cyberporn investigations, Australian cop Philip Jackson is no stranger to the dangerous side of sexual fetishes. He may have found his sickest case yet when he discovers a sinister side to an American website devoted to fat-admiring men and obese women called "feeders" and "gainers." Could the man behind it all be force-feeding missing women to death? Tense, dark and deeply disturbing, director Brett Leonard (The Lawnmower Man, Virtuosity) takes the crime-thriller genre to a twisted, gut-wrenching new level.
Commando
Mark L. Lester A massively underrated action thriller that kept Arnold Schwarzenegger occupied between mid-'80s blockbusters, Commando may be one of the last shoot-out films ever to have real characters in it. Not, of course, that they're anything other than stereotypes, but they're painted with such detailed, positive strokes that it's impossible not to relate to them. Arnie plays a retired military special-ops officer whose daughter (played with an expert balance of cute/feisty by Alyssa Milano) is kidnapped by the baddest of bad guys, who'll only hand her back as and when he's assassinated a tiresome banana-republic president on their behalf. Needless to say, Arnie is deeply annoyed by this, rescues the moppet single-handed amid more bullets and explosions than you can shake a stuntman's pay cheque at, and... well, why spoil the fun by revealing any more? Co-star Rae Dawn Chong gets some nice one-liners as the innocent bystander who gets caught up in the mayhem. —Roger Thomas
Wag the Dog (New Line Platinum Series)
Barry Levinson Not only was Barry Levinson's comedy shot in a relatively fast period of 29 days, the satire of politics and show business feels as if it were made yesterday. There's a fresh spin quite evident here, a nervy satire of a presidential crisis and the people who whitewash the facts. The main players are a mysterious Mr. Fix-It (Robert De Niro), veteran Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman), and a White House aide (Anne Heche). Can the president's molesting of a young girl be buried in the two weeks before an election? A war in Albania just might do the trick. In the good old days, the president would just invade. With modern technology, it's even cleaner. The hungry press looks for any lead, convenient misinformation is created by the latest Hollywood fakery ("all developed by the new James Cameron film") creating images and merchandise all instantly packaged. And it must be real, because it's on TV. David Mamet's script never questions the morals or the absolute secrecy needed to pull this thing off. He and director Barry Levinson have enough truth in the story to make you wonder what is real news and what is just promotion the next time you see CNN. Many of the supporting players impact the story with mere presence: Denis Leary as a quote man, Willie Nelson as a songwriter. The three leads are magnificent. With the similarities between history and this film, Wag will forever linked to the Monica Lewinsky saga. This video version contains a new minidocumentary focusing on the parallels of the film with the Bill Clinton scandal, including comments from director Barry Levinson and hosted by newsman Tom Brokaw. —Doug Thomas
Go
Doug Liman Director Doug Liman's follow-up to the winning Swingers is a rollicking adventure that, while lacking in any substantial plot, speeds along with nonstop adrenaline and style to burn. Taking a cue from Pulp Fiction, Liman plays tricks with time and overlapping plots, all of which play out in L.A. and Las Vegas in a 24-hour period sometime between Christmas and New Year's. Slacker grocery-store clerk Ronna (Sarah Polley) is trying to score rent money by selling hits of Ecstasy at a rave party, but winds up inadvertently double-crossing a ruthless dealer (sexy and scary Timothy Olyphant). She's also invading the dealing turf of her coworker Simon (Desmond Askew), a Brit on his first trip to Vegas, which turns nightmarish after a jaunt with pal Marcus (Taye Diggs) to a "gentleman's club" turns violent. And then there's the two soap-opera actors (Jay Mohr and Scott Wolf) who cross paths with Ronna more than once in their attempts to divest themselves of a drug-related charge by participating in a sting.

The way Liman and writer John August layer these stories owes a huge debt to Quentin Tarantino, but the comedy and action sequences rocket like a bat out of hell with energy, humor, and genuine surprise. In addition to some hilarious dialogue exchanges—including a classic scene between Ronna's stoned friend (Nathan Bexton) and a Zen cat—Liman works wonders with one the most winning ensembles in recent memory, a cast that includes both established actors and TV cuties. Mohr, Diggs, and especially Polley (doing a 180 from her turn in The Sweet Hereafter) are as excellent as you'd expect, but it's Wolf (of Party of Five) and Dawson's Creek's Katie Holmes (as Polley's best bud) who turn in revelatory work; Holmes especially seems poised to be a breakout star. An amazing cinematic ride—like a roller coaster, you'll want to go back again and again. —Mark Englehart
Mr. & Mrs. Smith - Unrated
Doug Liman Released amidst rumors of romance between costars Angelina Jolie and soon-to-be-divorced Brad Pitt, Mr. and Mrs. Smith offers automatic weapons and high explosives as the cure for marital boredom. The premise of this exhausting action-comedy (no relation to the 1941 Alfred Hitchcock comedy starring Carole Lombard and Robert Montgomery) is that the unhappily married Smiths (Pitt and Jolie) will improve their relationship once they discover their mutually-hidden identities as world-class assassins, but things get complicated when their secret-agency bosses order them to rub each other out. There's plenty of amusing banter in the otherwise disposable screenplay by Simon Kinberg (xXx: State of the Union, Fantastic Four), and director Doug Liman (The Bourne Identity) gives Pitt and Jolie a slick, glossy superstar showcase that's innocuous but certainly never boring. It could've been better, but as an action-packed summer confection, Mr. and Mrs. Smith kills two hours in high style. —Jeff Shannon
The Bourne Identity [HD DVD]
Doug Liman
A Scanner Darkly
Richard Linklater How well you respond to Richard Linklater's A Scanner Darkly depends on how much you know about the life and work of celebrated science fiction writer Philip K. Dick. While it qualifies as a faithful adaptation of Dick's semiautobiographical 1977 novel about the perils of drug abuse, Big Brother-like surveillance and rampant paranoia in a very near future ("seven years from now"), this is still very much a Linklater film, and those two qualities don't always connect effectively. The creepy potency of Dick's premise remains: The drug war's been lost, citizens are kept under rigid surveillance by holographic scanning recorders, and a schizoid addict named Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) is facing an identity crisis he's not even aware of: Due to his voluminous intake of the highly addictive psychotropic drug Substance D, Arctor's brain has been split in two, each hemisphere functioning separately. So he doesn't know that he's also Agent Fred, an undercover agent assigned to infiltrate Arctor's circle of friends (played by Woody Harrelson, Winona Ryder, Rory Cochrane, and Robert Downey, Jr.) to track down the secret source of Substance D. As he wears a "scramble suit" that constantly shifts identities and renders Agent Fred/Arctor into "the ultimate everyman," Dick's drug-addled antihero must come to grips with a society where, as the movie's tag-line makes clear, "everything is not going to be OK."

While it's virtually guaranteed to achieve some kind of cult status, A Scanner Darkly lacks the paranoid intensity of Dick's novel, and Linklater's established penchant for loose and loopy dialogue doesn't always work here, with an emphasis on drug-culture humor instead of the panicked anxiety that Dick's novel conveys. As for the use of "interpolated rotoscoping"—the technique used to apply shifting, highly stylized animation over conventional live-action footage—it—it's purely a matter of personal preference. The film's look is appropriate to Dick's dark, cautionary story about the high price of addiction, but it also robs performances of nuance and turns the seriousness of Dick's story into... well, a cartoon. Opinions will differ, but A Scanner Darkly is definitely worth a look—or two, if the mind-rattling plot doesn't sink in the first time around. —Jeff Shannon
THX 1138
George Lucas Two-Disc Special Edition: 

* Digitally remastered with THX certified sound 

* Commentary by George Lucas and co-writer/sound effects editor Walter Murch 

* Theatre of Noise sound-effects track with branching segments to 13 master sessions with Walter Murch 

* 2 New documentaries: "A Legacy of Filmmakers: The Early Years of American Zoetrope" and "Artifacts from the Future: The Making of THX 1138" 

* George Lucas's original student film "THX-11384EB" 

* "Bald": 1971 production featurette 

* Five new trailers from the 2004 theatrical release

* Original theatrical trailer
Star Wars - Episode II, Attack of the Clones
George Lucas If The Phantom Menace was the setup, then Attack of the Clones is the plot-progressing payoff, and devoted Star Wars fans are sure to be enthralled. Ten years after Episode I, Padmé Amidala (Natalie Portman), now a senator, resists the creation of a Republic Army to combat an evil separatist movement. The brooding Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) is resentful of his stern Jedi mentor, Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), tormented by personal loss, and showing his emerging "dark side" while protecting his new love, Amidala, from would-be assassins. Youthful romance and solemn portent foreshadow the events of the original Star Wars as Count Dooku (a.k.a. Darth Tyranus, played by Christopher Lee) forges an alliance with the Dark Lord of the Sith, while lavish set pieces showcase George Lucas's supreme command of all-digital filmmaking. All of this makes Episode II a technological milestone, savaged by some critics as a bloated, storyless spectacle, but still qualifying as a fan-approved precursor to the pivotal events of Episode III. —Jeff Shannon
Moulin Rouge
Baz Luhrmann A dazzling and yet frequently maddening bid to bring the movie musical kicking and screaming into the 21st century, Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge bears no relation to the many previous films set in the famous Parisian nightclub. This may appear to be Paris in the 1890s, with can-can dancers, bohemian denizens like Toulouse-Lautrec (John Leguizamo), and ribaldry at every turn, but it's really Luhrmann's pop-cultural wonderland. Everyone and everything is encouraged to shatter boundaries of time and texture, colliding and careening in a fast-cutting frenzy that thinks nothing of casting Elton John's "Your Song" 80 years before its time. Nothing is original in this kaleidoscopic, absinthe-inspired love tragedy—the words, the music, it's all been heard before. But when filtered through Luhrmann's love for pop songs and timeless showmanship, you're reminded of the cinema's power to renew itself while paying homage to its past.

Luhrmann's overall success with his third "red-curtain" extravaganza (following Strictly Ballroom and William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet) is wildly debatable: the scenario is simple to the point of silliness, and how can you appreciate choreography when it's been diced into hash by attention-deficit editing? Still, there's something genuine brewing between costars Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman (as, respectively, a poor writer and his unobtainable object of desire), and their vocal talents are impressive enough to match Luhrmann's orgy of extraordinary sets, costumes, and digital wizardry. The movie's novelty may wear thin, along with its shallow indulgence of a marketable soundtrack, but Luhrmann's inventiveness yields moments that border on ecstasy, when sound and vision point the way to a moribund genre's joyously welcomed revival. —Jeff Shannon
Network
Sidney Lumet Media madness reigns supreme in screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky's scathing satire about the uses and abuses of network television. But while Chayefsky's and director Sidney Lumet's take on television may seem quaint in the age of "reality TV" and Jerry Springer's talk-show fisticuffs, it's every bit as potent now as it was when the film was released in 1976. And because Chayefsky was one of the greatest of all dramatists, his Oscar-winning script about the ratings frenzy at the cost of cultural integrity is a showcase for powerhouse acting by Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway and Beatrice Straight (who each won Oscars), and Oscar nominee William Holden in one of his finest roles. Finch plays a veteran network anchorman who's been fired because of low ratings. His character's response is to announce he'll kill himself on live television two weeks hence. What follows, along with skyrocketing ratings, is the anchorman's descent into insanity, during which he fervently rages against the medium that made him a celebrity. Dunaway plays the frigid, ratings-obsessed producer who pursues success with cold-blooded zeal; Holden is the married executive who tries to thaw her out during his own seething midlife crisis. Through it all, Chayefsky (via Finch) urges the viewer to repeat the now-famous mantra "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not gonna take it anymore!" to reclaim our humanity from the medium that threatens to steal it away. —Jeff Shannon
Coral Reef Adventure (Large Format)
Greg MacGillivray Like any IMAX movie, Coral Reef Adventure is so vivid, vast, and colorful that you can't help but be astonished by its visual splendor. But this undersea exploration has a deeper, more serious agenda as well, warning its viewers that the natural magnificence of the world's most impressive coral reefs is, in most cases, a mere 30 years away from extinction due to the devastating effects of global (and oceanic) warming. Whether or not that timeframe is accurate (and there's not enough solid science presented here to prove it either way), it's tragically obvious that we are in the process of losing entire ecosystems that cannot be replaced, and when you witness these awesome coral reefs in their still-thriving vitality, you experience a sense of urgent responsibility toward our stewardship of planet Earth. By showing us the commitment and potentially life-threatening work of reef explorers and world-class undersea cinematographers Howard and Michele Hall, the film provides an all-access pass to some of the most exotic, playful, and dangerous creatures in the ocean, presented with the kind of intense, almost three-dimensional clarity that can only be achieved in the IMAX format. And while the giant-screen awesomeness of IMAX is lost in translation to DVD, Coral Reef Adventure offers the best-to-date use (on disc 2 of this two-disc set) of High Definition DVD-ROM formatting. For PC users equipped with Windows XP and Windows Media Player 9 series (or later) software, the amazing images in Coral Reef Adventure achieve an almost life-like resolution. The ultimate conclusion remains: If we don't do something to protect these delicate, endangered wonders of nature, we will lose a part of ourselves. —Jeff Shannon
Kids in the Hall - Brain Candy
Kelly Makin Moviegoers never caught on to its brilliance, but Brain Candy is a smart, outrageously inventive vehicle for Canada's most irreverent comedy troupe. The subtly subversive plot is about society's ongoing search for the perfect "happy drug," and the Kids inhabit a multitude of costumes and characters as they celebrate—and lament—the invention of "Gleemonex," the ultimate antidepressant, which locks users into their happiest memories... and subsequently renders them comatose. No worries for the Roritor Chemical Company; they don't care much about side effects! With rampant riffs on heavy-metal doomsayers, closeted gay husbands (resulting in Scott Thompson's hilarious coming-out musical), blissed-out grandmothers, and all varieties of corporate greed-mongers, Brain Candy is almost too hip for its own good, combining Pythonesque ingenuity with cutting social satire. As a comedic experiment it's hit-and-miss, but with the cross-dressing Kids running the show, it's likely to leave you laughing out loud. —Jeff Shannon
The Venture Bros. - Season One
Christopher McCulloch
The Venture Bros. - Season Two
Christopher McCulloch Studio: Turner Hm Entertainm Release Date: 04/17/2007 Rating: Nr
V for Vendetta
James McTeigue * * * * * "Remember, remember the fifth of November," for on this day, in 2020, the minds of the masses shall be set free. So says code-name V (Hugo Weaving), a man on a mission to shake society out of its blank complacent stares in the film V for Vendetta. His tactics, however, are a bit revolutionary, to say the least. The world in which V lives is very similar to Orwell's totalitarian dystopia in 1984: after years of various wars, England is now under "big brother" Chancellor Adam Sutler (played by John Hurt, who played Winston Smith in the movie 1984), whose party uses force and fear to run the nation. After they gained power, minorities and political dissenters were rounded up and removed; artistic and unacceptable religious works were confiscated. Cameras and microphones are littered throughout the land, and the people are perpetually sedated through the governmentally controlled media. Taking inspiration from Guy Fawkes, the 17th century co-conspirator of a failed attempt to blow up Parliament on November 5, 1605, V dons a Fawkes mask and costume and sets off to wake the masses by destroying the symbols of their oppressors, literally and figuratively. At the beginning of his vendetta, V rescues Evey (Natalie Portman) from a group of police officers and has her live with him in his underworld lair. It is through their relationship where we learn how V became V, the extremities of the party's corruption, the problems of an oppressive government, V's revenge plot, and his philosophy on how to induce change.

Based on the popular graphic novel by Alan Moore, V for Vendetta's screenplay was written by the Wachowski Brothers (of The Matrix fame) and directed by their protégé, James McTeigue. Controversy and criticism followed the film since its inception, from the hyper-stylized use of anarchistic terrorism to overthrow a corrupt government and the blatant jabs at the current U.S. political arena, to graphic novel fans complaining about the reconstruction of Alan Moore's original vision (Moore himself has dismissed the film). Many are valid critiques and opinions, but there's no hiding the message the film is trying to express: Radical and drastic events often need to occur in order to shake people out of their state of indifference in order to bring about real change. Unfortunately, the movie only offers a means with no ends, and those looking for answers may find the film stylish, but a bit empty. —Rob Bracco

On the DVDs
On disc 1 is a 16-minute documentary "Freedom! Forever!: Making V for Vendetta" with discussions on the movie's origin and themes by the principal cast and crew (no Alan Moore or Wachowskis, to no one's surprise, but the graphic novel's illustrator David Lloyd is on hand to call the movie "a very good version"). On disc 2 is a 17-minute production featurette, a 10-minute history of Guy Fawkes, and the 15-minute "England Prevails: V for Vendetta and the New Wave in Comics." Lloyd and others from the comics industry such as Paul Levitz and Bill Sienkiwicz talk about the graphic novel and how it appealed to a different, older audience. The second menu of the second disc also has an easy-to-find Easter egg of a rapping and swearing Natalie Portman on Saturday Night Live. —David Horiuchi

Beyond the Film

The graphic novel by Alan Moore and David Lloyd

More by Alan Moore

From Graphic Novel to Big Screen

More by Natalie Portman

More by Hugo Weaving

More by the Wachowski Brothers
The Last Action Hero
John McTiernan Jack Slater is an action-film hero played by Arnold Schwarzenegger. An old projectionist (Robert Prosky) hands a magic movie ticket to Jack's biggest preteen fan (Austin O'Brien), and the kid steps right inside the latest Jack Slater film, becoming the actor star's sidekick in gunfights and car chases. But when Jack's nemesis (Charles Dance) gets his hands on the ticket, the fight busts out into the real world and Jack (à la Toy Story's Buzz Lightyear) refuses to believe he's a fictional character. Director John McTiernan churns some nifty scenes out of this setup, although the fiction-to-reality shuffle is not as deft as in, say, Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo, and the plot needs the kind of logic and discipline found in that classic when-worlds-collide film Back to the Future. Still, Schwarzenegger has moments of wit and smashing action, and we get a faux-movie trailer advertising an intriguing new shoot-'em-up: "Something's rotten in the State of Denmark—and Hamlet is taking out the trash!"
The Thomas Crown Affair
John McTiernan For the Hollywood remake rule, which dictates that an update of an older film be inferior to the original in almost every aspect, The Thomas Crown Affair stands as a glorious exception. The original 1968 film, starring a dapper Steve McQueen and a radiant Faye Dunaway, was a diverting pop confection of mod clothes and nifty break-ins, but not much more. John McTiernan's new version, though, cranks up the entertainment factor to mach speed, turning what was a languid flick into a high-adrenaline caper romance. Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) is now a man of industry who likes to indulge in a little high-priced art theft on the side; Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) is the insurance investigator determined to get on his tail in more ways than one. If you're thinking cat-and-mouse game, think again—it—it's more like cat vs. smarter cat, as both the thief and the investigator try to outwit each other and nothing is off-limits, especially after they start a highly charged love affair that's a heated mix of business and pleasure.

What makes this Thomas Crown more enjoyable than its predecesor is McTiernan's attention to detail in both the set action pieces (no surprise from the man who helmed Die Hard with precision accuracy) and the developing romance, the witty and intelligent script by Leslie Dixon (she wrote the love scenes) and Kurt Wimmer (he wrote the action scenes), and, most of all, its two stunning leads (both over 40 to boot), combustible both in and out of bed. Brosnan, usually held prisoner in the James Bond straitjacket, lets loose with both a relaxed sensuality and a comic spirit he's rarely expressed before. The film, however, pretty much belongs to Russo, who doesn't just steal the spotlight, but bends it to her will. Beautiful, stylish, smart, self-possessed, incredibly sexy, she's practically a walking icon; it's no wonder Crown falls for her hook, line, and sinker. With Denis Leary as a police detective smitten with Russo, and Faye Dunaway in a throwaway but wholly enjoyable cameo as Brosnan's therapist. —Mark Englehart
Predator
John McTiernan Rambo meets Alien in this terrific science-fiction thriller from 1987, directed by John McTiernan just a year before Die Hard made him Hollywood's most sought-after director of action-packed blockbusters. Arnold Schwarzenegger leads an elite squad of U.S. Army commandos to a remote region of South American jungle, where they've been assigned to search for South American officials who've been kidnapped by terrorists. Instead they find a bunch of skinned corpses hanging from the trees and realize that they're now facing a mysterious and much deadlier threat. As the squad is picked off one by one, Arnold finds himself pitted against a hideous alien creature that's heavily armed and wearing a spacesuit enabling the creature to render itself invisible. The title says it all in describing the relentless, escalating action that follows, maintained by McTiernan with an abundance of visual flair. The film's special effects are still impressive, and stunning locations in the Mexican jungles create a combined atmosphere of verdant beauty and imminent danger. The plot doesn't hold up to much scrutiny, but the movie's so exciting and tightly paced that its weaknesses seem irrelevant. —Jeff Shannon
Amazon (Large Format)
Kieth Merrill Explore the mysterious Amazon through the amazing IMAX (R) experience and celebrate the beauty, vitality and wonder of this magical rain forest, which is disappearing at an alarming rate. Filmmakers overcame many difficulties to photograph this rarely seen tropical landscape and present it with all the visual power associated with IMAX. Narrated by Academy Award-winning actress Linda Hunt, this unique collaboration between an American scientist and a tribal shaman on a mission to find rare medicinal plants will amaze and astound you.
Star Trek VI - The Undiscovered Country
Nicholas Meyer Star Trek V left us nowhere to go but up, and with the return of Star Trek II director Nicholas Meyer, Star Trek VI restored the movie series to its classic blend of space opera, intelligent plotting, and engaging interaction of stalwart heroes and menacing villains. Borrowing its subtitle (and several lines of dialogue) from Shakespeare, the movie finds Admiral Kirk (William Shatner) and his fellow Enterprise crew members on a diplomatic mission to negotiate peace with the revered Klingon Chancellor Gorkon (David Warner). When the high-ranking Klingon and several officers are ruthlessly murdered, blame is placed on Kirk, whose subsequent investigation uncovers an assassination plot masterminded by the nefarious Klingon General Chang (Christopher Plummer) in an effort to disrupt a historic peace summit. As this political plot unfolds, Star Trek VI takes on a sharp-edged tone, with Kirk and Spock confronting their opposing views of diplomacy, and testing their bonds of loyalty when a Vulcan officer is revealed to be a traitor. With a dramatic depth befitting what was to be the final movie mission of the original Star Trek crew, this film took the veteran cast out in respectably high style. With the torch being passed to the crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation, only Kirk, Scotty, and Chekov would return, however briefly, in Star Trek: Generations. —Jeff Shannon
Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan
Nicholas Meyer Although Star Trek: The Motion Picture had been a box-office hit, it was by no means a unanimous success with Star Trek fans, who responded much more favorably to the "classic Trek" scenario of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Inspired by the "Space Seed" episode of the original TV series, the film reunites newly promoted Admiral Kirk with his nemesis from the earlier episode—the genetically superior Khan (Ricardo Montalban)—who is now seeking revenge upon Kirk for having been imprisoned on a desolated planet. Their battle ensues over control of the Genesis device, a top-secret Starfleet project enabling entire planets to be transformed into life-supporting worlds, pioneered by the mother (Bibi Besch) of Kirk's estranged and now-adult son. While Mr. Spock mentors the young Vulcan Lt. Saavik (then-newcomer Kirstie Alley), Kirk must battle Khan to the bitter end, through a climactic starship chase and an unexpected crisis that will cost the life of Kirk's closest friend. This was the kind of character-based Trek that fans were waiting for, boosted by spectacular special effects, a great villain (thanks to Montalban's splendidly melodramatic performance), and a deft combination of humor, excitement, and wondrous imagination. Director Nicholas Meyer (who would play a substantial role in the success of future Trek features) handles the film as a combination of Moby Dick, Shakespearean tragedy, World War II submarine thriller, and dazzling science fiction, setting the successful tone for the Trek films that followed. —Jeff Shannon
Natural City
Byung-chun Min Rebuilt after a devastating war, the world of 2080 has given rise to advanced technologies including the creation of cyborgs. Created with artificial intelligence (AI), human-like emotions and great strength, they serve one master for their entire lifespan. When the cyborgs revolt, R (Yoo Ji-tae)and Noma (Yoon Chan), Rs best friend and commander, lead an elite military squad ordered to eliminate the rebellion. Unbeknownst to anyone, R has fallen in love with Ria (Seo Rin), his cyborg, and is illegally harvesting AI chips from dead cyborgs in order to save her life. Torn between his love for Ria and the battle to save mankind, humanitys fate hangs in the balance.
Shortbus
John Cameron Mitchell In his aim to make an honest film about sex, John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch) has taken a somewhat documentary approach to Shortbus, a film describing various New Yorkers' sexual pathos. Framed by shots roving a homemade diorama of the city, Shortbus is comprised of vignettes featuring actors who helped craft this story of people's disconnect in sexual endeavors. Jamie (PJ DeBoy) and James (Paul Dawson), a gay couple experiencing a lull in their relationship, visit Sophia (Sook-Yin Lee), a sex therapist whose inability to orgasm results in her clients inviting her to a sex club after which the film is titled. Sophia's husband, Rob (Raphael Barker), is also willing to experiment, so the two independently embark on adventures in self-pleasure. Dominatrix Severin (Lindsay Beamish) plays a crucial role in Sophia and Rob's lives, as her search for real humanity overlaps with their desire for passion. As each character's plot complicates, the viewer sees a similar melancholy bulldozing its way into these seemingly disparate lives. The depression is repeatedly used in comedic scenes, such as when James is asked on a date while still hospitalized for his attempted suicide. Yo La Tengo's score, which includes Animal Collective among others, lends this film a graceful ambience. Unlike porn, Shortbus has a resonance that encourages the viewer to consider one's own sex life as an important aspect of happiness. —Trinie Dalton
My Neighbor Totoro
Hayao Miyazaki My Neighbor Totoro is that rare delight, a family film that appeals to children and adults alike. While their mother is in the hospital, 10-year-old Satsuki and 4-year-old Mei move into an old-fashioned house in the country with their professor father. At the foot of an enormous camphor tree, Mei discovers the nest of King Totoro, a giant forest spirit who resembles an enormous bunny rabbit. Mei and Satsuki learn that Totoro makes the trees grow, and when he flies over the countryside or roars in his thunderous voice, the winds blow. Totoro becomes the protector of the two sisters, watching over them when they wait for their father, and carrying them over the forests on an enchanted journey. When the children worry about their mother, Totoro sends them to visit her via a Catbus, a magical, multilegged creature with a grin the Cheshire Cat might envy.

Unlike many cartoon children, Satsuki and Mei are neither smart-alecky nor cloyingly saccharine. They are credible kids: bright, energetic, silly, helpful, and occasionally impatient. Filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki makes the viewer believe the two sisters love each other in a way no American feature has ever achieved. My Neighbor Totoro is enormously popular in Japan, and some of the character merchandise has begun to appear in America. The film has also inspired a Japanese environmental group to buy a Totoro Forest preserve in the Saitama Prefecture, where Miyazaki's film is set. —Charles Solomon
The Castle of Cagliostro (Lupin the III)
Hayao Miyazaki Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke, My Neighbor Totoro) achieved his first international hit with this delightful 1979 adventure yarn. Quick-paced, high-spirited, and loaded with wit, Cagliostro is a dandy throwback to the caper pictures of the '60s. International man of mystery Lupin III stumbles back into the picturesque European duchy of Cagliostro with his faithful and gruff sidekick, Jigen. They will encounter, in no particular order, a runaway bride, a magical ring, an evil count with a dastardly plan, an inspector bent on catching Lupin, perilous rooftop chases, hooded guards with superhuman powers, a well-used dungeon, a counterfeiting scheme, and an ancient mystery promising grand treasure. Lupin deploys an array of Bond-type gadgets, razor-sharp wit, and a surprise up both his sleeves. Despite the hail of bullets, this caper is great fun, never taking itself seriously. Miyazaki's career illustrates how limiting the term anime can be for these films; there are hardly more than 10 live-action films of this genre as entertaining. Far less mean than Hollywood fare, it nevertheless is for ages 9 and up with language and gunplay. The Lupin character has been featured in other anime films, but never as successfully or with as much fun as in Miyazaki's film. The new English-language dubbing is excellent to boot. —Doug Thomas
Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind
Hayao Miyazaki Hayao Miyazaki gained widespread attention in Japan for his complex ecological manga series, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1982), which he adapted for the screen two years later. One thousand years after a war devastated much of the Earth, humanity clings to existence at the fringes of a vast, polluted forest inhabited by monstrous insects. Only Nausicaä, the princess of the tiny realm of the Valley of the Wind, grasps the environmental significance of the forest. She sees beyond petty wars and national rivalries to the only viable future for the planet. In Nausicaä, Miyazaki began to explore elements he would develop more fully in his later films: daring, compassionate heroines; exciting flying sequences; colorful side characters; strong interpersonal relationships; and a call for an ecologically sustainable way of life. Nausicaä prefigures Sheeta in Castle in the Sky and Chihiro in Spirited Away, just as the rough and ready Asbel anticipates Pazu in Castle in the Sky and Ashitaka in Princess Mononoke. For years, Nausicaä was available in the United States only as the badly re-edited Warriors of the Wind. The new English dub from Disney presents the film in its entirety, with strong vocal performances by Uma Thurman, Patrick Stewart, Alison Lohman, and Edward James Olmos. (Rated PG: violence, frightening imagery) —Charles Solomon
Decasia: The State of Decay - A Film by Bill Morrison
Bill Morrison (II)
Terminator 3 - Rise of the Machines
Jonathan Mostow With a reported budget of $172 million, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines starts in high gear and never slows down. The apocalyptic "Judgment Day" of T2 was never prevented, only postponed: John Connor (Nick Stahl, replacing T2's Edward Furlong), now 22 and disconnected from society, is being pursued yet again, this time by the advanced T-X, a sleek "Terminatrix" (coldly expressionless Kristanna Loken) programmed to stop Connor from becoming the savior of humankind. Originally programmed as an assassin, a disadvantaged T-101 cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger, bidding fond farewell to his signature role) arrives from the future to join Connor and his old acquaintance Kate (Claire Danes) in thwarting the T-X's relentless pursuit. The plot presents a logical fulfillment of T2 prophesy, disposing of Connor's mother (Linda Hamilton is sorely missed) while computer-driven machines assume control, launching a nuclear nightmare that Connor must survive. With Breakdown and U-571 serving as worthy rehearsals for this cautionary epic of mass destruction, director Jonathan Mostow wisely avoids any stylistic connection to James Cameron's Terminator classics; instead he's crafted a fun, exciting popcorn thriller, humorous and yet still effectively nihilistic, and comparable to Jurassic Park III in returning the Terminator franchise to its potent B-movie roots. —Jeff Shannon
Return to Oz
Walter Murch You don't fool with Mother Nature, spit into the wind, remake Casablanca, or trash the land of Oz. Perhaps that is why the 1985 live-action sequel split critics and audiences alike. The 1939 classic musical is so beloved that it's almost impossible to imagine seeing Dorothy in shock therapy, a crumbled yellow brick road, the ruins of Emerald City, and the Tin Man turned into stone. But L. Frank Baum, the author of the original Oz books, portrayed just that with his continuing stories of Dorothy. When you get by these tough facts, the film version is solid entertainment for the over-7 set.

Dorothy (a 10-year-old Fairuza Balk in her debut) is back in Kansas, where Aunt Em (Piper Laurie) is at the end of her rope: her niece is not sleeping and going on about a place called Oz. Therapy may be the answer, but luckily the scary clinic goes dark before Dorothy can be, er, cured (but the lead-up will scare the munchkins out of most kids). She wakes up in the land of Oz, now in tatters, and searches for its king, the Scarecrow. A new set of friends, including a tin soldier, a talking chicken, and a pumpkin man, help her against new villains, including Princess Mombi (Jean Marsh)—complete with a set of detachable heads—and the evil Nome King (Nicol Williamson with a great assist from Will Vinton's Claymation). The sole directorial effort of Oscar-winning editor Walter Murch is stuffed with marvelous effects that foreshadow later works by Tim Burton and the Henson non-Muppet films. —Doug Thomas
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Two-Disc Special Edition) (Harry Potter 4)
Mike Newell The fourth entry in the Harry Potter saga could be retitled Fast Times at Hogwarts, where finding a date to the winter ball is nearly as terrifying as worrying about Lord Voldemort's return. Thus, the young wizards' entry into puberty (and discovery of the opposite sex) opens up a rich mining field to balance out the dark content in the fourth movie (and the stories are only going to get darker). Mike Newell (Four Weddings and a Funeral) handily takes the directing reins and eases his young cast through awkward growth spurts into true young actors. Harry (Daniel Radcliffe, more sure of himself) has his first girl crush on fellow student Cho Chang (Katie Leung), and has his first big fight with best bud Ron (Rupert Grint). Meanwhile, Ron's underlying romantic tension with Hermione (Emma Watson) comes to a head over the winter ball, and when she makes one of those girl-into-woman Cinderella entrances, the boys' reactions indicate they've all crossed a threshold.

But don't worry, there's plenty of wizardry and action in Goblet of Fire. When the deadly Triwizard Tournament is hosted by Hogwarts, Harry finds his name mysteriously submitted (and chosen) to compete against wizards from two neighboring academies, as well as another Hogwarts student. The competition scenes are magnificently shot, with much-improved CGI effects (particularly the underwater challenge). And the climactic confrontation with Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes, in a brilliant bit of casting) is the most thrilling yet. Goblet, the first installment to get a PG-13 rating, contains some violence as well as disturbing images for kids and some barely shrouded references at sexual awakening (Harry's bath scene in particular). The 2 1/2-hour film, lean considering it came from a 734-page book, trims out subplots about house-elves (they're not missed) and gives little screen time to the standard crew of the other Potter films, but adds in more of Britain's finest actors to the cast, such as Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody and Miranda Richardson as Rita Skeeter. Michael Gambon, in his second round as Professor Dumbledore, still hasn't brought audiences around to his interpretation of the role he took over after Richard Harris died, but it's a small smudge in an otherwise spotless adaptation. —Ellen A. Kim

On the DVD
The highlight of the two-disc set is a half-hour conversation with actors Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint. They discuss their reactions to the film and other topics with British writer Richard Curtis . Then they answer questions from contest-winning fans, such as what are their favorite kids' books (Watson bypasses the obvious answer in favor of Roald Dahl and Philip Pullman) and what scenes are they looking forward to in upcoming films. More routine extras include the "Reflections on the Fourth Film" featurette (14 min.), though it has comments from some of the other young cast members, and "Preparing for the Yule Ball" (9 min.). The 10 minutes of additional scenes are mostly skulking and skullduggery, plus a long musical number from the ball. The remaining material is grouped along the lines of the Triwizard Tournament, with behind-the-scenes looks at each of the competitions (about 22 min. total), two longer featurettes on He Who Must Not Be Named (11 min.) and the workday of the other contestants (Robert Pattinson, Stanislav Ianevski, and Clémence Poésy, 13 min.), and four games, playable with the directional arrows on the remote control, that can be frustrating to figure out. —David Horiuchi
Gattaca
Andrew Niccol Confidently conceived and brilliantly executed, Gattaca had a somewhat low profile release in 1997, but audiences and critics hailed the film's originality. It's since been recognized as one of the most intelligent science fiction films of the 1990s. Writer-director Andrew Niccol, the talented New Zealander who also wrote the acclaimed Jim Carrey vehicle The Truman Show, depicts a near-future society in which one's personal and professional destiny is determined by one's genes. In this society, "Valids" (genetically engineered) qualify for positions at prestigious corporations, such as Gattaca, which grooms its most qualified employees for space exploration. "In-Valids" (naturally born), such as the film's protagonist, Vincent (Ethan Hawke), are deemed genetically flawed and subsequently fated to low-level occupations in a genetically caste society. With the help of a disabled "Valid" (Jude Law), Vincent subverts his society's social and biological barriers to pursue his dream of space travel; any random mistake—and an ongoing murder investigation at Gattaca—could reveal his plot. Part thriller, part futuristic drama and cautionary tale, Gattaca establishes its social structure so convincingly that the entire scenario is chillingly believable. With Uma Thurman as the woman who loves Vincent and identifies with his struggle, Gattaca is both stylish and smart, while Jude Law's performance lends the film a note of tragic and heartfelt humanity. —Jeff Shannon
Gattaca [Blu-ray]
Andrew Niccol Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin and Jude Law star in this engrossing sci-fi thriller about an all-too-human man who dares to defy a system obsessed with genetic perfection. Hawke stars as Vincent, an "In-Valid" who assumes the identity of a member of the genetic elite to pursue his goal of traveling into space with the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation. However, a week before his mission, a murder marks Vincent as a suspect. With a relentless investigator in pursuit and the colleague he has fallen in love with beginning to suspect his deception, Vincent's dreams steadily unravel.
The Birdcage
Mike Nichols The son of a gay man brings his fiancees conservative parents home for introductions but there is one condition: his father and his lover must pretend they are straight for the duration of the visit. Now the couple is on a hilarious quest to find an alternative to their alternative lifestyle. Studio: Tcfhe/mgm Release Date: 06/05/2007 Starring: Robin Williams Gene Hackman Run time: 119 minutes Rating: R Director: Mike Nichols
Memento (2000) (Ws Dub Spec Sub Dol Dts)
Christopher Nolan Guy Pearce (L.A. Confidential) and Joe Pantoliano (The Matrix) shine in this absolute stunner of a movie. Memento combines a bold, mind-bending script with compelling action and virtuoso performances. Pearce plays Leonard Shelby, hunting down the man who raped and murdered his wife. The problem is that "the incident" that robbed Leonard of his wife also stole his ability to make new memories. Unable to retain a location, a face, or a new clue on his own, Leonard continues his search with the help of notes, Polaroids, and even homemade tattoos for vital information.

Because of his condition, Leonard essentially lives his life in short, present-tense segments, with no clear idea of what's just happened to him. That's where Memento gets really interesting; the story begins at the end, and the movie jumps backward in 10-minute segments. The suspense of the movie lies not in discovering what happens, but in finding out why it happened. Amazingly, the movie achieves edge-of-your-seat excitement even as it moves backward in time, and it keeps the mind hopping as cause and effect are pieced together.

Pearce captures Leonard perfectly, conveying both the tragic romance of his quest and his wry humor in dealing with his condition. He is bolstered by several excellent supporting players, and the movie is all but stolen from him by Pantoliano, who delivers an amazing performance as Teddy, the guy who may or may not be on his side. Memento has an intriguing structure and even meditations on the nature of perception and meaning of life if you go looking for them, but it also functions just as well as a completely absorbing thriller. It's rare to find a movie this exciting with so much intelligence behind it. —Ali Davis
Digital Video Essentials HD (HD DVD + DVD Combo Disc)
none Originally created in High Definition, Digital Video Essentials is now coming to you in High DEfinition on HD DVD in both 1080p and 720p. As audiences turn to High Definition home theaters it becomes increassingly important to have the tools and the demonstration materials needed to optimize the quality and capability of the display. Developed by A/V legend Joe Kane, Digital Video Essentials offers and entire range of audio and video test signals for the all-inmportant home system tune-up. These test tracks can make the difference between an artificial-looking picture and poor sound and the amazing presentation quality and realisim you can only get from an HD DVD. 

HD DVD/Standard DVD Combo Disc 

Both SD and HD versions of DVE in one package 

The calibration tool for HD home theaters 

Includes one year free membership to online support community 

Future-ready for downloadable advanced content 

Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby True HD Calibration content 

Color filters for checking decoding 

Wide Screen 16x9 in SD and HD 

Audio-Dolby Digial 2.0 Surround Sound
The Saint
Phillip Noyce Lightly enjoyable but a disappointment in the context of author Leslie Charteris's popular character, the Saint—who has been played by several actors, most notably George Sanders—this 1997 film is more in keeping with the requirements of high-octane contemporary action than it is the requirements of a particular legacy. Val Kilmer plays Simon Templar, the mercenary spy, who is hired to steal a fusion formula but falls in love with the scientist (Elisabeth Shue) who cooked it up. Kilmer's portrayal bears little resemblance to Charteris's rakish hero, and the film itself becomes increasingly improbable and ponderous the longer it goes on. —Tom Keogh
Final Fantasy VII - Advent Children
Takeshi Nozue, Tetsuya Nomura * * * - - The question facing any viewer of the Japanese CG feature Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children is: do you have to know the games on which it's based in order to understand the film? And the answer is: it certainly helps. But even complete novices (i.e., most parents) in the Final Fantasy world will find some entertainment in its wealth of fantasy-based action, and the animation never fails to astonish. Picking up two years after an epic battle between the forces of good (represented by brooding soldier Cloud) and evil (Cloud's former general, Sephiroth), FFVII opens in the devastated city of Midgard, whose youthful occupants suffer from a ghastly disease known as Geostigma. A trio of brothers arrives with what appears to be a cure for the plague, but their gesture conceals a more sinister purpose: to revive Sephiroth and bring about the end of the world. Cloud and his companions must once again rise to the occasion to stop the siblings and the revived Sephiroth from unleashing total destruction. Complex and self-referential to the point of occasional incomprehension, Final Fantasy VII will definitely be most appreciated by fans of the game series, but if others can look past the numbing dialogue and frenetic action (which is a bit too intense for very young children), the film offers a carefree and action-packed viewing experience. The two-disc set contains the original Japanese language version of the film as well as an English-dubbed edition (Rachel Leigh Cook and Christy Carlson Romano, among others, provide the vocal talent) and a version edited for the Venice Film Festival. A 30-minute featurette that recaps the Final Fantasy story up to VII, as well as a making-of documentary, deleted scenes, and promotions for future Final Fantasy VII games and products round out the extras. —Paul Gaita
Ghost in the Shell
Mamoru Oshii The skillful blending of drawn animation and computer-generated imagery excited anime fans when this science fiction mystery was released in 1995: many enthusiasts believe Ghost suggests what the future of anime will be, at least in the short term. The film is set in the not-too-distant future, when an unnamed government uses lifelike cyborgs or "enhanced" humans for undercover work. One of the key cyborgs is The Major, Motoko Kusanagi, who resembles a cross between The Terminator and a Playboy centerfold. She finds herself caught up in a tangled web of espionage and counterespionage as she searches for the mysterious superhacker known as "The Puppet Master."

Mamoru Oshii directs with a staccato rhythm, alternating sequences of rapid-fire action (car chases, gun battles, explosions) with static dialogue scenes that allow the characters to sort out the vaguely mystical and rather convoluted plot. Kusanagi's final quote from I Corinthians suggests that electronic evolution may compliment and eventually supplant organic evolution. The minor nudity, profanity, and considerable violence would earn Ghost in the Shell at least a PG rating. —Charles Solomon
Ghost in the Shell 2 - Innocence
Mamoru Oshii Mamoru Oshii's landmark Ghost in the Shell (1995) largely defined the cyberpunk genre and influenced the Matrix films in the U.S. The long-awaited sequel continues the adventures of Batou, Major Kusanagi's former assistant, who was left behind when she disappeared into the cyber-realm of the Net. With his new human partner, Togusa, Batou investigates a series of bloody murders involving gynoids, robots with sexual functions. The case leads them to the headquarters of the Locus Solus company, where Batou uncovers the evil secret behind the creation of the gynoids. Innocence includes some staggeringly beautiful CG images, especially a parade depicting characters from Chinese mythology. Oshii contrasts this glittering beauty with a Blade Runner-esque dystopia. But even his skill as a director can't disguise the fact that the underdeveloped story and flat characters are far less interesting than the opulent visuals. (Rated PG-13: graphic violence, violence against women, brief nudity, profanity, alcohol and tobacco use.) —Charles Solomon
The Stepford Wives
Frank Oz An all-star cast remakes the 1975 socio-political horror flick, The Stepford Wives. After being fired as president of a television network, Joanna (Nicole Kidman, Moulin Rouge) has a nervous breakdown, prompting her husband Walter (Matthew Broderick, Election) to take her to a simple Connecticut town called Stepford to recuperate. But Stepford is a little strange: The schlubby husbands congregate at a closed-doors men's club, while the wives—all in bright summer frocks and air-brushed smiles—exercise to keep their hourglass figures and cook endless pastries. Joanna, along with new arrivals Bobbie (Bette Midler, Beaches) and Roger (the very funny Roger Bart), soon discover that the mastermind of Stepford (Christopher Walken, Communion) has used cybernetics to "perfect" womankind. The Stepford Wives has some satirical zingers (from sneaky screenwriter Paul Rudnick, Addams Family Values), but the basic idea has lost a lot of gas since 1975. Also featuring Glenn Close (Fatal Attraction). —Bret Fetzer
Akira
Katsuhiro Ôtomo * * * * - Artist-writer Katsuhiro Ôtomo began telling the story of Akira as a comic book series in 1982 but took a break from 1986 to 1988 to write, direct, supervise, and design this animated film version. Set in 2019, the film richly imagines the new metropolis of Neo-Tokyo, which is designed from huge buildings down to the smallest details of passing vehicles or police uniforms. Two disaffected orphan teenagers—slight, resentful Tetsuo and confident, breezy Kaneda—run with a biker gang, but trouble grows when Tetsuo start to resent the way Kaneda always has to rescue him. Meanwhile, a group of scientists, military men, and politicians wonder what to do with a collection of withered children who possess enormous psychic powers, especially the mysterious, rarely seen Akira, whose awakening might well have caused the end of the old world. Tetsuo is visited by the children, who trigger the growth of psychic and physical powers that might make him a superman or a supermonster. As befits a distillation of 1,318 pages of the story so far, Akira is overstuffed with character, incident, and detail. However, it piles up astonishing set pieces: the chases and shootouts (amazingly kinetic, amazingly bloody) benefit from minute cartoon detail that extends to the surprised or shocked faces of the tiniest extra; the Tetsuo monster alternately looks like a billion-gallon scrotal sac or a Tex Avery mutation of the monster from The Quatermass Experiment; and the finale—which combines flashbacks to more innocent days with a destruction of Neo City and the creation of a new universe—is one of the most mind-bending in all sci-fi cinema. —Kim Newman
Steamboy - Director's Cut
Katsuhiro Ôtomo The first feature Katsuhiro Otomo has written and directed since his watershed Akira (1988), Steamboy offers a fantastic, sepia-toned vision of the past-as-future. In place of the dystopic Neo-Tokyo of Akira, Steamboy is set in England in 1866. Young Ray Steam receives a Steam Ball, a mysterious, powerful device, from his inventor grandfather. Governments and businesses covet the Steam Ball, and Ray finds himself in a murderous conflict over its possession. He's also caught between his father, a 19th century Darth Vader who builds terrible weapons for an American arms merchant, and his grandfather, who believes science should improve people's lives. Otomo uses computer graphics to create dazzling visuals that few recent films—animated or live action—can match: monumental systems of gears and pistons; machines that dwarf the Tower of London; antique weapons of mass destruction. But the dazzling imagery can't disguise the lack of a coherent plot and the flimsiness of the characters.

Steamboy is being released in a dubbed version that's been shortened by 20 minutes, and a more satisfying subtitled version that preserves Otomo's original pacing. Both versions suggest that Steamboy is the work of an important filmmaker who can't quite shape his awesome visions into a effective narrative. (Rated PG-13 for action violence.) —Charles Solomon
The Neverending Story
Wolfgang Petersen Wolfgang Petersen (In the Line of Fire) made his first English-language film with this 1984 fantasy about a boy (Barret Oliver) visualizing the stories of a book he's reading. The imagined tale involves another boy, a warrior (Noah Hathaway), and his efforts to save the empire of Fantasia from a nemesis called the Nothing. Whether or not the scenario sticks in the memory, what does linger are the unique effects, which are not quite like anything else. Plenty of good fairy-tale characters and memorable scenes, and the film even encourages kids to read. —Tom Keogh
Family Guy - Blue Harvest
Dominic Polcino What better way to launch Family Guy's sixth season and commemorate Star Wars' 30th anniversary than with this double-length Very Special Episode, a full-scale, awesomely animated spoof that recasts George Lucas' saga with Family Guy's galaxy of characters: Chris (Seth Green) is Luke; Lois (Alex Borstein) is Princess Leia; Peter (Seth McFarlane) is Han Solo, but not, as expected, Jabba the Hut; Brian (Seth, again) is Chewbacca; Quagmire (and again, Seth) is C3PO; Cleveland is R2D2; Herbert, the creepy senior pedophile, is Obi-Wan (both voiced by Mike Henry); and, of course, Stewie (Seth, already) is Darth Vader ("My diapers have gone over to the dark side"). Poor Meg is reduced to a cameo as the hideous reptilian creature that haunts the garbage compactor. Blue Harvest is reverently faithful to A New Hope, while engaging in typical Family Guy pop-culture references (everything from those old Grey Poupon commercials to Doctor Who, Airplane, Dirty Dancing, and Deal or No Deal) and bizarre digressions (the iconic opening crawl detours into an appreciation of a "way naked" Angelina Jolie in Gia). Along for the wild ride are Judd Nelson, who contributes a voice cameo as John Bender for a Breakfast Club gag, Rush Limbaugh railing against futuristic affirmative action on Tatooine talk radio, and Beverly D'Angelo and Chevy Chase as the vacationing Griswolds observing the rebellion from their orbiting station wagon. A Star Wars spoof in 2007 isn't exactly uncharted territory. As Chris Griffin notes in this episode's final moments, Robot Chicken brilliantly did it months earlier (and let us not forget Mel Brooks'Spaceballs from 1987; or, on second thought...). But the Force is strong with Family Guy, and who could resist the opportunity to hear the Muzak playing in a Death Star elevator? —Donald Liebenson

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Dark City (New Line Platinum Series)
Alex Proyas If you're a fan of brooding comic-book antiheroes, got a nihilistic jolt from The Crow (1994), and share director Alex Proyas's highly developed preoccupation for style over substance, you might be tempted to call Dark City an instant classic of visual imagination. It's one of those films that exists in a world purely of its own making, setting its own rules and playing by them fairly, so that even its derivative elements (and there are quite a few) acquire their own specific uniqueness. Before long, however, the film becomes interesting only as a triumph of production design. And while that's certainly enough to grab your attention (Blade Runner is considered a classic, after all), it's painfully clear that Dark City has precious little heart and soul. One-dimensional characters are no match for the film's abundance of retro-futuristic style, so it's best to admire the latter on its own splendidly cinematic terms. Trivia buffs will be interested to know that the film's 50-plus sets (partially inspired by German expressionism) were built at the Fox Film Studios in Sydney, Australia, home base of director Alex Proyas and producer Andrew Mason. The underground world depicted in the film required the largest indoor set ever built in Australia. Befitting a film of such ambition, the DVD includes a feast of bonus features, including audio commentaries by the director, producer, writers, and cinematographer, and also by film critic Roger Ebert, who named Dark City one of the best films of 1998. Also included is an isolated music track, an interactive game, and a photo gallery of production stills and set design sketches. —Jeff Shannon
I, Robot [Blu-ray]
Alex Proyas I ROBOT (BLURAY) (BLU-RAY DISC)
The Ice Pirates
Stewart Raffill The amiable sci-fi spoof The Ice Pirates has earned a small but vocal cadre of admirers thanks to its go-for-broke gags and a healthy disrespect for outer space epics like the Star Wars and Star Trek franchises. An atypically goofy Robert Urich stars as the leader of a band of space pirates who kidnap a princess (Mary Crosby of Dallas fame), and then join her quest to find a mythical planet that can solve the universe's water shortage. A completely game (shameless?) cast (which includes Anjelica Huston in fetching leather gear, Ron Perlman, John Matuszak, and fantastic film icon John Carradine) and Stewart (The Philadelphia Experiment) and Raffill's breezy direction help sell the funniest bits (most notably, the notorious "space herpy" scene, and the frantic time-warp finale) and make the more leaden jokes palatable. —Paul Gaita
Spider-Man 2
Sam Raimi More than a few critics hailed Spider-Man 2 as "the best superhero movie ever," and there's no compelling reason to argue—thanks to a bigger budget, better special effects, and a dynamic, character-driven plot, it's a notch above Spider-Man in terms of emotional depth and rich comic-book sensibility. Ordinary People Oscar®-winner Alvin Sargent received screenplay credit, and celebrated author and comic-book expert Michael Chabon worked on the story, but it's director Sam Raimi's affinity for the material that brings Spidey 2 to vivid life. When a fusion experiment goes terribly wrong, a brilliant physicist (Alfred Molina) is turned into Spidey's newest nemesis, the deranged, mechanically tentacled "Doctor Octopus," obsessed with completing his experiment and killing Spider-Man (Tobey Maguire) in the process. Even more compelling is Peter Parker's urgent dilemma: continue his burdensome, lonely life of crime-fighting as Spider-Man, or pursue love and happiness with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst)? Molina's outstanding as a tragic villain controlled by his own invention, and the action sequences are nothing less than breathtaking, but the real success of Spider-Man 2 is its sense of priorities. With all of Hollywood's biggest and best toys at his disposal, Raimi and his writers stay true to the Marvel mythology, honoring Spider-Man creators Stan Lee and Steve Ditko, and setting the bar impressively high for the challenge of Spider-Man 3. —Jeff Shannon
Spider-Man 3
Sam Raimi How does Spider-Man 3 follow on the heels of its predecessor, which was widely considered the best superhero movie ever? For starters, you pick up the loose threads from that movie, then add some key elements of the Spidey comic-book mythos (including fan-favorite villain Venom), the black costume, and the characters of Gwen Stacy and her police-captain father. In the beginning, things have never looked better for Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire): He's doing well in school; his alter ego, Spider-Man, is loved and respected around New York City. And his girlfriend, Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst), has just taken a starring role in a Broadway musical. But nothing good can last for Spidey. Mary Jane's career quickly goes downhill; she's bothered by Peter's attractive new classmate, Gwen Stacy (Bryce Dallas Howard); and the new Daily Bugle photographer, Eddie Brock (Topher Grace), is trying to steal his thunder. Enter a new villain, the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), who can transform his body into various forms and shapes of sand and who may be connected to Peter's past in an unexpected way. There's also the son of an old villain, Harry Osborne (James Franco), who unmasked Spidey in the previous movie and still has revenge on his mind. And a new black costume seems to boost Spidey's powers, but transforms mild-mannered Peter into a mean and obnoxious boor (Maguire has some fun here).

If that sounds like a lot to pack into one 140-minute movie, it is. While director Sam Raimi keeps things flowing, assisted on the screenplay by his brother Ivan and Alvin Sargent, there's a little too much going on, and it's inevitable that one of the villains (there are three or four, depending on how you count) gets significantly short-changed. Still, the cast is excellent, the effects are fantastic, and the action is fast and furious. Even if Spider-Man 3 isn't the match of Spider-Man 2, it's a worthy addition to the megamillion-dollar franchise. —David Horiuchi

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Koyaanisqatsi - Life Out of Balance
Godfrey Reggio First-time filmmaker Godfrey Reggio's experimental documentary from 1983—shot mostly in the desert Southwest and New York City on a tiny budget with no script, then attracting the support of Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas and enlisting the indispensable musical contribution of Philip Glass—delighted college students on the midnight circuit and fans of minimalism for many years. Meanwhile, its techniques, merging cinematographer Ron Fricke's time-lapse shots (alternately peripatetic and hyperspeed) with Glass's reiterative music (from the meditative to the orgiastic)—as well as its ecology-minded imagery—crept into the consciousness of popular culture. The influence of Koyaanisqatsi, or "life out of balance," has by now become unmistakable in television advertisements, music videos, and, of course, in similar movies such as Fricke's own Chronos and Craig McCourry's Apogee. Reggio shot a sequel, Powaqqatsi (1988), and is planning to complete the trilogy with Naqoyqatsi. Koyaanisqatsi provides the uninitiated the chance to see where it all started—along with an intense audiovisual rush. —Robert Burns Neveldine
Powaqqatsi - Life in Transformation
Godfrey Reggio Powaqqatsi, or "life in transformation," is the second part of a projected trilogy of experimental documentaries whose titles derive from Hopi compound nouns. The now legendary Koyaanisqatsi, or "life out of balance," was the first. Naqoyqatsi, or "life in war," once it obtains funding, will be the third. Powaqqatsi finds director Godfrey Reggio somewhat more directly polemical than before, and his major collaborator, the composer Philip Glass, stretching to embrace world music.

Reggio reuses techniques familiar from the previous film (slow motion, time-lapse, superposition) to dramatize the effects of the so-called First World on the Third: displacement, pollution, alienation. But he spends as much time beautifully depicting what various cultures have lost—cooperative living, a sense of joy in labor, and religious values—as he does confronting viewers with trains, airliners, coal cars, and loneliness. What had been a more or less peaceful, slow-moving, spiritually fulfilling rural existence for these "silent" people (all we hear is music and sound effects) becomes a crowded, suffocating, accelerating industrial urban hell, from Peru to Pakistan. Reggio frames Powaqqatsi with a telling image: the Serra Pelada gold mines, where thousands of men, their clothes and skin imbued with the earth they're moving, carry wet bags up steep slopes in a Sisyphean effort to provide wealth for their employers. While Glass juxtaposes his strangely joyful music, which includes the voices of South American children, a number of these men carry one of their exhausted comrades out of the pit, his head back and arms outstretched—one more sacrifice to Caesar. Nevertheless, Reggio, a former member of the Christian Brothers, seems to maintain hope for renewal. —Robert Burns Neveldine
Naqoyqatsi
Godfrey Reggio Whether your intellect is completely engaged or passively detached, any viewing of Naqoyqatsi is likely to provoke a fascinating response. You can view it as a magnificent, visually stimulating music video (as critic Roger Ebert suggested you should), or in context as the third and most unsettling film in director Godfrey Reggio's "qatsi" trilogy, each titled from the Hopi language, and preceded by Koyaanisqatsi and Powaqqatsi ("Life out of Balance" and "Life in Transformation," respectively). "Life as War" is the translation of this film's title, and Reggio's theme is not one of conventional warfare, but of daily life as warfare in the age of rapidly evolving technology. The entire trilogy views humankind as a blight on the pristine nature of Earth, but here the theme is taken to its inevitable extreme: a constant flow of new and archival images—manipulated with solarization, digital enhancements, thermal effects, 2-D and 3-D animation, etc.—combine to convey athletic and military regimentation, culminating in the doomsday flowering of missiles, rockets, and all varieties of nuclear weaponry. The cumulative effect, when combined with Philip Glass's mesmerizing score (his best of the trilogy, with cello solos by Yo-Yo Ma) is one of doom-laden portent, but, as Stephen Holden observed in the New York Times, the film is also arrestingly beautiful as it weaves its hypnotic, apocalyptic spell. For those who wish to delve further, Reggio, Glass, and editor/visual designer Jon Kane provide valuable insight in a bonus panel discussion. —Jeff Shannon
The Man with Two Brains
Carl Reiner Meet Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (Steve Martin), the famous brain surgeon. Perhaps the name is not unfamiliar, though it is unpronounceable; the good doctor is the inventor of the celebrated "screw-top" method of brain surgery, in which the top of the skull twists off as easily as the lid of a pickle jar. The man may be a medical genius, but his talent for love leaves something to be desired, which explains his marriage to a gold-digging vixen (Kathleen Turner). Ah, but Dr. Hfuhruhurr may yet find true love, in the form of the disembodied brain he discovers in the lab of a mad scientist—David Warner, gone the Frankenstein route. (Lovely image: Hfuhruhurr in a rowboat, taking the brain out for a romantic ride on the lake.) Thus, in its own utterly goofy way, does The Man with Two Brains delve into the eternal dilemma of male indecision: does a man fall in love with a woman's body, or with her mind? Along the way, of course, there are gags both highbrow and very, very lowbrow, a mind-body split that might be why critics have tended to prefer the more sophisticated slapstick of All of Me (directed, like this film, by Carl Reiner) and Roxanne among the early Steve Martin outings. Still, this is one of Martin's funniest pictures, and a game Kathleen Turner, fresh off her Body Heat success, ably spoofs her own sultry image. The cerebral love object is voiced by Sissy Spacek. —Robert Horton
The Princess Bride
Rob Reiner From celebrated director Rob Reiner (When Harry Met Sally) and Oscar¥*-winning screenwriter William Goldman (Chaplin) comes ¡§an enchanting fantasy¡¨ (Time) filled with adventure, romance and plenty of ¡§good-hearted fun¡¨ (Roger Ebert)! Featuring a spec
The Princess Bride - Dread Pirate Edition
Rob Reiner Screenwriter William Goldman's novel The Princess Bride earned its own loyal audience on the strength of its narrative voice and its gently satirical, hyperbolic spin on swashbuckled adventure that seemed almost purely literary. For all its derring-do and vivid over-the-top characters, the book's joy was dictated as much by the deadpan tone of its narrator and a winking acknowledgement of the clichés being sent up. Miraculously, director Rob Reiner and Goldman himself managed to visualize this romantic fable while keeping that external voice largely intact: using a storytelling framework, avuncular Grandpa (Peter Falk) gradually seduces his skeptical grandson (Fred Savage) into the absurd, irresistible melodrama of the title story.

And what a story: a lowly stable boy, Westley (Cary Elwes), pledges his love to the beautiful Buttercup (Robin Wright), only to be abducted and reportedly killed by pirates while Buttercup is betrothed to the evil Prince Humperdinck. Even as Buttercup herself is kidnapped by a giant, a scheming criminal mastermind, and a master Spanish swordsman, a mysterious masked pirate (could it be Westley?) follows in pursuit. As they sail toward the Cliffs of Insanity...

The wild and woolly arcs of the story, the sudden twists of fate, and, above all, the cartoon-scaled characters all work because of Goldman's very funny script, Reiner's confident direction, and a terrific cast. Elwes and Wright, both sporting their best English accents, juggle romantic fervor and physical slapstick effortlessly, while supporting roles boast Mandy Patinkin (the swordsman Inigo Montoya), Wallace Shawn (the incredulous schemer Vizzini), and Christopher Guest (evil Count Rugen) with brief but funny cameos from Billy Crystal, Carol Kane, and Peter Cook. —Sam Sutherland
Evolution
Ivan Reitman Based on the evidence in Evolution, one thing is perfectly clear: special effects have evolved, but director Ivan Reitman has reverted to primitive pandering. Equally obvious is the fact that Evolution is a de facto rip-off of Reitman's 1984 classic Ghostbusters, but this time there's no Bill Murray to deliver the best punch lines (we have to settle for fellow ghostbuster Dan Aykroyd in a broad supporting role), and the comedy has devolved into a grossfest including deep-rectal extraction of alien insects, fire-hose enemas into a giant alien sphincter, and a full-moon display of David Duchovny's naked posterior. Whereas Ghostbusters was a shrewd, irreverent mainstream comedy that combined gooey spectral ectoplasm with something resembling genuine wit, Evolution is a crude, juvenile romp in which all things slimy are elevated to comedic supremacy.

Granted, that's not always a bad thing. As latter-day ghostbuster equivalents, Duchovny, Orlando Jones, and Seann William Scott make a fine comedic trio, and Julianne Moore is equally amusing as a clumsy scientist and Duchovny's obligatory love interest. Despite the meddling of clueless military buffoons, they join forces to eradicate a wild variety of rapidly evolving alien creatures that arrived on Earth via meteor impact, and the extraterrestrial beasties (courtesy of effects wizard Phil Tippet and crew) are outrageously designed and marvelously convincing. For anyone who prefers lowbrow humor, Evolution will prove as entertaining as Ghostbusters (or at least Galaxy Quest), while others may lament Reitman's shameless embrace of crudeness. One thing's for certain: after seeing this movie, you'll gain a whole new appreciation for Head & Shoulders shampoo. —Jeff Shannon
Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels
Guy Ritchie Cockney boys Tom, Soap, Eddie, and Bacon are in a bind; they owe seedy criminal and porn king "Hatchet" Harry a sizable amount of cash after Eddie loses half a million in a rigged game of poker. Hot on their tails is a thug named Big Chris who intends to send them all to the hospital if they don't come up with the cash in the allotted time. Add into the mix an incompetent set of ganja cultivators, two dimwitted robbers, a "madman" with an afro, and a ruthless band of drug dealers and you have an astonishing movie called Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Before the boys can blink, they are caught up in a labyrinth of double-crosses that lead to a multitude of dead bodies, copious amounts of drugs, and two antique rifles.

Written and directed by talented newcomer Guy Ritchie, this is one of those movies that was destined to become an instant cult classic à la Reservoir Dogs. Although some comparisons were drawn between Ritchie and Quentin Tarantino, it would be unfair to discount the brilliant wit of the story and the innovative camerawork that the director brings to his debut feature. Not since The Krays has there been such an accurate depiction of the East End and its more colorful characters. Indicative of the social stratosphere in London, Ritchie's movie is a hilarious and at times touching account of friendships and loyalty. The director and his mates (who make up most of the cast) clearly are enjoying themselves here. This comes across in some shining performances, in particular from ex-footballer Vinnie Jones (Big Chris) and an over-the-top Vas Blackwood (as Rory Breaker), who very nearly steals the show. Full of quirky vernacular and clever tension-packed action sequences, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels is a triumph—a perfect blend of intelligence, humor, and suspense. —Jeremy Storey
Austin Powers in Goldmember
Jay Roach Despite symptoms of sequelitis, Austin Powers in Goldmember is must-see lunacy for devoted fans of the shagadelic franchise. Unfortunately, the law of diminishing returns is in full effect: for every big-name cameo and raunchy double-entendre, there's an equal share of redundant shtick, juvenile scatology, and pop-cultural spoofery. All is forgiven when the hilarity level is consistently high, and Mike Myers—returning here as randy Brit spy Austin, his nemesis Dr. Evil, the bloated Scottish henchman Fat Bastard, and new Dutch disco-villain Goldmember—thrives by favoring comedic chaos over coherent plotting. Once they've tossed Austin into the disco fever of 1975 (where he's sent to rescue his father, gamely played by Michael Caine), Myers and director Jay Roach seem vaguely adrift with old and new characters, including Verne Troyer's Mini-Me and pop star Beyoncé Knowles as Pam Grier-ish blaxpo-babe Foxxy Cleopatra. A bit tired, perhaps, but Powers hasn't lost his mojo. —Jeff Shannon
Austin Powers - International Man of Mystery (New Line Platinum Series)
Jay Roach If you don't think Austin Powers is one of the funniest movies of the 1990s, maybe you should be packed into a cryogenic time-chamber and sent back to the decade whence you came. Perhaps it was the 1960s—the shag-a-delic decade when London hipster Austin Powers scored with gorgeous chicks as a fashion photographer by day, crime-fighting international man of mystery by night. Yeah, baby, yeah! But when Powers's arch nemesis, Dr. Evil, puts himself into a deep-freeze and travels via time-machine to the late 1990s, Powers must follow him and foil Evil's nefarious scheme of global domination. Mike Myers plays dual roles as Powers and Dr. Evil, with Elizabeth Hurley as his present-day sidekick and karate- kicking paramour. A hilarious spoof of '60s spy movies, this colorful comedy actually gets funnier with successive viewings, making it a perfect home video for gloomy days and randy nights. Oh, behave! —Jeff Shannon
Austin Powers - The Spy Who Shagged Me (New Line Platinum Series)
Jay Roach "I put the grrr in swinger, baby!" a deliciously randy Austin Powers coos near the beginning of The Spy Who Shagged Me, and if the imagination of Austin creator Mike Myers seems to have sagged a bit, his energy surely hasn't. This friendly, go-for-broke sequel to 1997's Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery finds our man Austin heading back to the '60s to keep perennial nemesis Dr. Evil (Myers again) from blowing up the world—and, more importantly, to get back his mojo, that man-juice that turns Austin into irresistible catnip for women, especially American spygirl Felicity Shagwell (a pretty but vacant Heather Graham). The plot may be irreverent and illogical, the jokes may be bad (with characters named Ivana Humpalot and Robin Swallows, née Spitz), and the scenes may run on too long, but it's all delivered sunnily and with tongue firmly in cheek.

Myers's true triumph, though, is his turn as the neurotic Dr. Evil, who tends to spout the right cultural reference at exactly the wrong time (referring to his moon base as a "Death Star" with Moon Units Alpha and Zappa—in 1969). Myers teams Dr. Evil with a diminutive clone, Mini-Me (Verne J. Troyer), who soon replaces slacker son Scott Evil (Seth Green) as the apple of the doctor's eye; Myers and Troyer work magic in what could plausibly be one of the year's most affecting (and hysterically funny) love stories. Despite a stellar supporting cast—including a sly Rob Lowe as Robert Wagner's younger self and Mindy Sterling as the forbidding Frau Farbissina—it—it's basically Myers's show, and he pulls a hat trick by playing a third character, the obese and disgusting Scottish assassin Fat Bastard. Many viewers will reel in disgust at Mr. Bastard's repulsive antics and the scatological bent Myers indulges in, including one showstopper involving coffee and—shudder—a stool sample. Still, Myers's good humor and dead-on cultural references win the day; Austin is one spy who proves he can still shag like a minx. —Mark Englehart
The Man Who Fell to Earth - Criterion Collection
Nicolas Roeg While other films directed by Nicolas Roeg have attained similar cult status (including Walkabout and Don't Look Now), none has been as hotly debated as this languid but oddly fascinating adaptation of the science fiction novel by Walter Tevis. David Bowie plays the alien of the title, who arrives on Earth with hopes of finding a way to save his own planet from turning into an arid wasteland. He funds this effort by capitalizing on several highly lucrative inventions, and in so doing becomes the powerful leader of an international corporate conglomerate. But his success has negative consequences as well—his contact with Earth has a disintegrating effect that sends him into a tailspin of disorientation and metaphysical despair. The sexual attention of a cheerful young woman (Candy Clark) doesn't do much to change his outlook, and his introduction to liquor proves even more devastating, until, finally, it looks as though his visit to Earth may be a permanent one. The Man Who Fell to Earth is definitely not for every taste—it—it's a highly contemplative, primarily visual experience that Roeg directs as an abstract treatise on (among other things) the alienating effects of an over-commercialized society. Stimulating and hypnotic or frightfully dull, depending on your receptiveness to its loosely knit ideas, it's at least in part about not belonging, about being disconnected from the world—about being a stranger in a strange land when there's really no place like home. —Jeff Shannon.
Altered States
Ken Russell It's easy to understand why the late, great screenwriter Paddy Chayefsky removed his name from the credits of Altered States and substituted the pseudonym Sidney Aaron. After all, Chayefsky was a revered dramatist whose original source novel was intended as a serious exploration of altered consciousness, inspired by the immersion-tank experiments of Dr. John Lilly in the 1970s. In the hands of maverick director Ken Russell, however, Altered States became a full-on sensory assault, using symbolic imagery and mind- blowing special effects to depict one man's physical and hallucinatory journey through the entire history of human evolution. It's a brazenly silly film redeemed by its intellectual ambition—a dazzling extravaganza that's in love with science and scientists, and eagerly willing to dive off the precipice of rationality to explore uncharted regions of mind, body, and spirit. William Hurt made his bold film debut as the psycho-physiologist who plays guinea pig to his own experiments; Blair Brown plays his equally brilliant wife, whose devotion is just strong enough to bring him back from the most altered state imaginable. From the eternal channels of sense memory to the restorative power of a loving embrace, this movie rocks you to the birth of the universe and back again. And while it's clearly not the story that Chayefsky wanted on the screen, the directorial audacity of Ken Russell makes it one heck of a memorable trip. —Jeff Shannon
Battlestar Galactica (2003 Miniseries)
Michael Rymer Despite voluminous protest and nitpicking criticism from loyal fans of the original 1978-80 TV series, the 2003 version of Battlestar Galactica turned out surprisingly well for viewers with a tolerance for change. Originally broadcast on the Sci-Fi Channel in December 2003 and conceived by Star Trek: The Next Generation alumnus Ronald D. Moore as the pilot episode for a "reimagined" TV series, this four-hour "miniseries" reprises the basic premise of the original show while giving a major overhaul (including some changes in gender) to several characters and plot elements. Gone are the flowing robes, disco-era hairstyles, and mock-Egyptian fighter helmets, and thankfully there's not a fluffy "daggit" in sight... at least, not yet. Also missing are the "chrome toaster" Cylons, replaced by new, more formidable varieties of the invading Cylon enemy, including "Number Six" in hot red skirts and ample cleavage, who tricks the human genius Baltar into a scenario that nearly annihilates the human inhabitants of 12 colonial worlds.

Thus begins the epic battle and eventual retreat of a "ragtag fleet" of humans, searching for the mythical planet Earth under the military command of Adama (Edward James Olmos) and the political leadership of Laura Roslin (Mary McDonnell), a former secretary of education, 43rd in line of succession and rising to the occasion of her unexpected Presidency. As directed by Michael Rymer (Queen of the Damned), Moore's ambitious teleplay also includes newfangled CGI space battles (featuring "handheld" camera moves and subdued sound effects for "enhanced realism"), a dysfunctional Col. Tigh (Michael Hogan) who's provoked into action by the insubordinate Starbuck (Katee Sackhoff), and a father-son reunion steeped in familial tragedy. To fans of the original BG series, many of these changes are blasphemous, but for the most part they work—including an ominous cliffhanger ending. The remade Galactica is brimming with smart, well-drawn characters ripe with dramatic potential, and it readily qualifies as serious-minded science fiction, even as it gives BG loyalists ample fuel for lively debate. —Jeff Shannon
Milk [Blu-ray]
Gus Van Sant Studio: Uni Dist Corp. (mca) Release Date: 03/10/2009 Run time: 129 minutes Rating: R
Batman Forever
Joel Schumacher When Tim Burton and Michael Keaton announced that they'd had enough of the Batman franchise, director Joel Schumacher stepped in (with Burton as coproducer) to make this action-packed extravaganza starring Val Kilmer as the caped crusader. Batman is up against two of Gotham City's most colorful criminals, the Riddler (a role tailor-made for funnyman Jim Carrey) and the diabolical Two-Face (Tommy Lee Jones), who join forces to conquer Gotham's population with a brain-draining device. Nicole Kidman plays the seductive psychologist who wants to know what makes Batman tick. Boasting a redesigned Batmobile and plenty of new Bat hardware, Batman Forever also introduces Robin the Boy Wonder (Chris O'Donnell) whose close alliance with Batman led more than a few critics to ponder the series' homoerotic subtext. No matter how you interpret it, Schumacher's take on the Batman legacy is simultaneously amusing, lavishly epic, and prone to chronic sensory overload. —Jeff Shannon
Batman & Robin
Joel Schumacher Following Val Kilmer's portrayal of the caped crusader in Batman Forever, the fourth Batman feature stars George Clooney under the pointy-eared cowl, with Chris O'Donnell returning as Robin the Boy Wonder. This time the dynamic duo is up against the nefarious Mr. Freeze (Arnold Schwarzenegger), who is bent on turning the world into an iceberg, and the slyly seductive but highly toxic Poison Ivy (Uma Thurman), who wants to eliminate all animal life and turn the Earth into a gigantic greenhouse. Alicia Silverstone lends a hand as Batgirl, and Elle McPherson plays the thankless role of Batman/Bruce Wayne's fiancée. A sensory assault of dazzling colors, senseless action, and lavish sets run amok, this Batman & Robin offers an overdose of eye candy, but it is strictly for devoted Bat-o-philes. —Jeff Shannon
Blade Runner (The Director's Cut)
Ridley Scott We regret that this DVD is under certain restrictions that prohibit sales to customers who live outside the North American continent. If you do not live in the United States or Canada, we will not be able to ship you this DVD. Thank you for understanding.
Thelma & Louise
Ridley Scott Thelma & Louise is a feminist manifesto writ large on the big screen, a smart and funny gender reversal of the standard Hollywood buddy formula, a road movie extraordinaire, with characters who became instant cultural icons. No matter how you define it, Ridley Scott's 1991 box-office hit pinched a nerve and made the cover of national news magazines for tweaking gender politics like no movie before or since. Callie Khouri's screenplay overhauls the buddy formula with its story about two best friends (Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis) who embark on a liberating adventure that turns into an interstate police chase after a traumatic incident makes both women into fugitives; they are en route to a destiny they could never have imagined. The perfect casting of Sarandon and Davis makes Thelma & Louise a movie for the ages, and Brad Pitt became an overnight star after his appearance as the con-artist cowboy who gives Davis a memorable (but costly) night in a roadside motel. —Jeff Shannon
G.I. Jane
Ridley Scott It seemed like a pretty good career move, and for the most part it was. Demi Moore will never top any rational list of great actresses, but as her career stalled in the mid-1990s she had enough internal fire and external physicality to be just right for her title role in G.I. Jane. Her character's name isn't Jane—it—it's Jordan O'Neil—but the fact that she lacks a penis makes her an immediate standout in her elite training squad of Navy SEALs. She's been recruited as the first female SEAL trainee through a series of backroom political maneuvers, and must prove her military staying power against formidable odds—not the least of which is the abuse of a tyrannical master chief (Viggo Mortensen) who puts her through hell to improve her chances of success. Within the limitations of a glossy star vehicle, director Ridley Scott manages to incorporate the women-in-military issue with considerable impact, and Moore—along with her conspicuous breast enhancements and that memorable head-shaving scene—jumps into the role with everything she's got. Not a great movie by any means, but definitely a rousing crowd pleaser, and it's worth watching just to hear Demi shout the words "Suck my ——!!—!!" (rhymes with "chick"). —Jeff Shannon
Alien - The Director's Cut
Ridley Scott A landmark of science fiction and horror, Alien arrived in 1979 between Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back as a stylishly malevolent alternative to George Lucas's space fantasy. Partially inspired by 1958's It! The Terror from Beyond Space, this instant classic set a tone of its own, offering richly detailed sets, ominous atmosphere, relentless suspense, and a flawless ensemble cast as the crew of the space freighter Nostromo, who fall prey to a vicious creature (designed by Swiss artist H.R. Giger) that had gestated inside one of the ill-fated crew members. In a star-making role, Sigourney Weaver excels as sole survivor Ripley, becoming the screen's most popular heroine in a lucrative movie franchise. To measure the film's success, one need only recall the many images that have been burned into our collective psyche, including the "facehugger," the "chestburster," and Ripley's climactic encounter with the full-grown monster. Impeccably directed by Ridley Scott, Alien is one of the cinema's most unforgettable nightmares. —Jeff Shannon
Black Rain (Special Collector's Edition) [HD DVD]
Ridley Scott A guilty pleasure if ever there was one, Black Rain is a ridiculously entertaining thriller by Ridley Scott (Alien), starring Michael Douglas as a tough New York cop who—along with his partner (Andy Garcia)—goes to Japan to deliver a local mobster. When the latter escapes, Douglas's brand of gonzo crime fighting rubs his Japanese hosts the wrong way. Slick, mechanistic, and absurd, the film is all surface action and attitude (not to mention Scott's incredibly busy, trademark art direction); and one can get lost in the sheer indulgence of it. However, if you can buy Douglas as an iconoclastic lawman, you can buy anything else here, including the notion of Kate Capshaw as a blonde escort highly desired by Japanese businessmen. —Tom Keogh
Blade Runner (Five-Disc Complete Collector's Edition) [HD DVD]
Ridley Scott In celebration of Blade Runner's 25th anniversary, director Ridley Scott has gone back into post production to create the long-awaited definitive new version. Blade Runner: The Final Cut, spectacularly restored and remastered from original elements and scanned at 4K resolution, will contain never-before-seen added/extended scenes, added lines, new and improved special effects, director and filmmaker commentary, an all-new 5.1 Dolby® Digital audio track and more. Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Edward James Olmos, Joanna Cassidy, Sean Young, and Daryl Hannah are among some 80 stars, filmmakers and others who participate in the extensive bonus features. Among the bonus material highlights is Dangerous Days, a brand new, three-and-a-half-hour documentary by award-winning DVD producer Charles de Lauzirika, with an extensive look into every aspect of the film: its literary genesis, its challenging production and its controversial legacy. The definitive documentary to accompany the definitive film version.

Disc One
RIDLEY SCOTT'S ALL-NEW "FINAL CUT" VERSION OF THE FILM
Restored and remastered with added & extended scenes, added lines, new and cleaner special effects and all new 5.1 Dolby Digital Audio. Also includes: Commentary by Ridley ScottCommentary by executive producer/co-screenwriter Hampton Fancher and co-screenwriter David Peoples; producer Michael Deely and production executive Katherine HaberCommentary by visual futurist Syd Mead; production designer Lawrence G. Paull, art director David L. Snyder and special photographic effects supervisors Douglas Trumbull, Richard Yuricich and David Dryer

Disc Two
DOCUMENTARY DANGEROUS DAYS: MAKING BLADE RUNNER
A feature-length authoritative documentary revealing all the elements that shaped this hugely influential cinema landmark. Cast, crew, critics and colleagues give a behind-the-scenes, in-depth look at the film — from its literary roots and inception through casting, production, visuals and special effects to its controversial legacy and place in Hollywood history.

Disc Three
1982 THEATRICAL VERSION
This is the version that introduced U.S. movie-going audiences to a revolutionary film with a new and excitingly provocative vision of the near-future. It contains Deckard/Harrison Ford's character narration and has Deckard and Rachel's (Sean Young) "happy ending" escape scene.

1982 INTERNATIONAL VERSION
Also used on U.S. home video, laserdisc and cable releases up to 1992. This version is not rated, and contains some extended action scenes in contrast to the Theatrical Version.

1992 DIRECTOR'S CUT
The Director's Cut omits Deckard's voiceover narration and removes the "happy ending" finale. It adds the famously-controversial "unicorn" sequence, a vision that Deckard has which suggests that he, too, may be a replicant.

Disc Four
BONUS DISC - "Enhancement Archive": 90 minutes of deleted footage and rare or never-before-seen items in featurettes and galleries that cover the film's amazing history, production teams, special effects, impact on society, promotional trailers, TV spots, and much more. Featurette "The Electric Dreamer: Remembering Philip K. Dick"Featurette "Sacrificial Sheep: The Novel vs. The Film"Philip K. Dick: The Blade Runner Interviews (audio)Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep Cover Gallery (images)The Art of Blade Runner (image galleries)Featurette "Signs of the Times: Graphic Design"Featurette "Fashion Forward: Wardrobe & Styling"Screen Tests: Rachel & PrisFeaturette "The Light That Burns: Remembering Jordan Cronenweth"Unit photography galleryDeleted and alternate scenes1982 promotional featurettesTrailers and TV spotsFeaturette "Promoting Dystopia: Rendering the Poster Art"Marketing and merchandise gallery (images)Featurette "Deck-A-Rep: The True Nature of Rick Deckard"Featurette "—Nexus Generation: Fans & Filmmakers"

Disc Five
WORKPRINT VERSION
This rare version of the film is considered by some to be the most radically different of all the Blade Runner cuts. It includes an altered opening scene, no Deckard narration until the final scenes, no "unicorn" sequence, no Deckard/Rachel "happy ending," altered lines between Batty (Rutger Hauer) and his creator Tyrell (Joe Turkell), alternate music and much more. Also includes: Commentary by Paul M. Sammon, author of Future Noir: The Making of Blade RunnerFeaturette "All Our Variant Futures: From Workprint to Final Cut"

Stills from Blade Runner (click for larger image)
Alien Quadrilogy
Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher The Alien Quadrilogy is a nine-disc boxed set devoted to the four Alien films. Although previously available on DVD as the Alien Legacy, here they have been repackaged with vastly more extras and with upgraded sound and picture. For anyone who hasn't been in hypersleep for the last 25 years, this series needs no introduction, though for the first time each film now comes in both original and "special edition" form.

Alien (1979) was so perfect it didn't need fixing, and Ridley Scott's 2003 director's cut is fiddling for the sake of fiddling. Watch it once, then return to the majestic, perfectly paced original. Conversely, the special edition of James Cameron's Aliens (1986) is the definitive version, though it's nice to finally have the theatrical cut on DVD for comparison. Most interesting is the alternative Alien 3 (1992). This isn't a "director's cut"—David Fincher refused to have any involvement with this release—but a 1991 work-print that runs 29 minutes longer than the theatrical version, and has now been restored, remastered, and finished off with (unfortunately) cheap new CGI. Still, it's truly fascinating, offering a different insight into a flawed masterpiece. The expanded opening is visually breathtaking, the central firestorm is much longer, and a subplot involving Paul McGann's character adds considerable depth to story. The ending is also subtly but significantly different. Alien: Resurrection (1997) always was a mess with a handful of brilliant scenes, and the special edition just makes it eight minutes longer.

The Alien Quadrilogy offers the first and fourth films with DTS soundtracks, the others having still fine Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation. All four films sound fantastic, with much low-level detail revealed for the first time. Each is anamorphically enhanced at the correct original aspect ratio, and the prints and transfers are superlative. Every film offers a commentary track that lends insight into the creative process—though the Scott-only commentary and isolated music score from the first Alien DVD release are missing here.

Each movie is complemented by a separate disc packed with hours of seriously detailed documentaries (all presented in full-screen with clips letterboxed), thousands of photos, production stills, and storyboards, giving a level of inside information for the dedicated buff only surpassed by the Lord of the Rings extended DVD sets. A ninth DVD compiles miscellaneous material, including an hourlong documentary and even all the extras from the old Alien laserdisc. "Exhaustive" hardly beings to describe the Alien Quadrilogy, a set that establishes the new DVD benchmark for retrospective releases and looks unlikely to be surpassed for some time. —Gary S. Dalkin
The Hannibal Lecter Anthology (Hannibal / The Silence of the Lambs)
Ridley Scott, Jonathan Demme Based on Thomas Harris's novel, Jonathan Demme's terrifying Silence of the Lambs really contains only a couple of genuinely shocking moments (one involving an autopsy, the other a prison break). The rest of the film is a splatter-free visual and psychological descent into the hell of madness, redeemed astonishingly by an unlikely connection between a monster and a haunted young woman. Anthony Hopkins is extraordinary as the cannibalistic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal Lecter, virtually entombed in a subterranean prison for the criminally insane. At the behest of the FBI, agent-in-training Clarice Starling (Jodie Foster) approaches Lecter, requesting his insights into the identity and methods of a serial killer named Buffalo Bill. In exchange, Lecter demands the right to penetrate Starling's most painful memories, creating a bizarre but palpable intimacy that liberates them both under separate but equally horrific circumstances. The Silence of the Lambs won 1992 Oscars® for best picture, actor, actress, director, and adapted screenplay.

Ten years later in Hannibal, Dr. Lecter (Hopkins) is living the good life in Italy, studying art and sipping espresso. FBI agent Clarice Starling (Julianne Moore, replacing Foster), on the other hand, is now a quiet, moody loner. A botched drug raid results in her demotion—and a request from Lecter's only living victim, Mason Verger (Gary Oldman, uncredited), for a little Q&A. Little does Starling realize that the hideously deformed Verger is using her as bait to lure Dr. Lecter out of hiding. Taking the basic plot contraptions from Harris's baroque novel, Hannibal is so stylistically different from its predecessor that it forces you to take it on its own terms. Director Ridley Scott adeptly sets up an atmosphere of foreboding, but it's all buildup for anticlimax, as Verger's plot for abducting Dr. Lecter doesn't really deliver the requisite visceral thrills, and the much-ballyhooed climatic dinner sequence wobbles between parody and horror. Hopkins and Moore are both first-rate, but the film contrives to keep them as far apart as possible, when what made Silence so amazing was their interaction. When they do connect it's quite thrilling, but it's unfortunately too little too late.
Enemy of the State
Tony Scott Robert Clayton Dean (Will Smith) is a lawyer with a wife and family whose happily normal life is turned upside down after a chance meeting with a college buddy (Jason Lee) at a lingerie shop. Unbeknownst to the lawyer, he's just been burdened with a videotape of a congressman's assassination. Hot on the tail of this tape is a ruthless group of National Security Agents commanded by a belligerently ambitious fed named Reynolds (Jon Voight). Using surveillance from satellites, bugs, and other sophisticated snooping devices, the NSA infiltrates every facet of Dean's existence, tracing each physical and digital footprint he leaves. Driven by acute paranoia, Dean enlists the help of a clandestine former NSA operative named Brill (Gene Hackman), and Enemy of the State kicks into high-intensity hyperdrive.

Teaming up once again with producer Jerry Bruckheimer, Top Gun director Tony Scott demonstrates his glossy style with clever cinematography and breakneck pacing. Will Smith proves that there's more to his success than a brash sense of humor, giving a versatile performance that plausibly illustrates a man cracking under the strain of paranoid turmoil. Hackman steals the show by essentially reprising his role from The Conversation—just imagine his memorable character Harry Caul some 20 years later. Most of all, the film's depiction of high-tech surveillance is highly convincing and dramatically compelling, making this a cautionary tale with more substance than you'd normally expect from a Scott-Bruckheimer action extravaganza. —Jeremy Storey
Domino (Widescreen New Line Platinum Series)
Tony Scott Does it really matter what's true or false in Domino if the movie's so deliriously hard to resist? Tony Scott's dizzying film about his late friend, former model and famous bounty hunter Domino Harvey (1969-2005), is more tribute than biography, riffing on Harvey's action-packed exploits and brief reality-TV celebrity in a fractured, manic style that's so visually over-stimulating that it could throw vulnerable viewers into grand mal seizures. Scott's barrage of audio-visual hyperactivity is ultimately exhausting, and Richard Kelly's fragmented screenplay does nothing to discourage Scott's relentless MTV "style" (and we use that word oh-so-loosely here). And yet, with Keira Knightley so ferociously alluring in the title role, and Mickey Rourke (as her boss and bounty-hunting mentor, Ed Mosbey) serving up a second dose of his Sin City comeback, Domino grabs you by the throat and never lets go. Scott's embrace of nihilism is typically facile but it propels a vision of wretched humanity that pulls you in with train-wreck intensity. The movie's bracing humor also makes fine use of a large supporting cast including Christopher Walken, Jacqueline Bissett, Dabney Coleman, Edgar Ramirez, Mo'Nique, Delroy Lindo, Mena Suvari, Lucy Liu, and former Beverly Hills 90210 stars Ian Ziering and Brian Austin Green (the latter two poking good-sport fun at themselves as "celebrity hostages"). The accidental overdose death of the real Domino (daughter of The Manchurian Candidate star Laurence Harvey) in the summer of 2005 threw a sad shroud of irony over this movie's theatrical release, but for all its reckless indulgence, Domino is a fitting eulogy for a troubled woman whose credo ("Heads you live, tails you die") is reflected in Scott's fictionalized rendition of the dangerous life she lived. —Jeff Shannon
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Henry Selick, Tim Burton For those who never thought Disney would release a film in which Santa Claus is kidnapped and tortured, well, here it is! The full title is Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, which should give you an idea of the tone of this stop-action animated musical/fantasy/horror/comedy. It is based on characters created by Burton, the former Disney animator best known as the director of Pee-wee's Big Adventure, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, and the first two Batman movies. His benignly scary-funny sensibility dominates the story of Halloweentown resident Jack Skellington (voice by Danny Elfman, who also wrote the songs), who stumbles on a bizarre and fascinating alternative universe called ... Christmastown! Directed by Henry Selick (who later made the delightful James and the Giant Peach), this PG-rated picture has a reassuringly light touch. As Roger Ebert noted in his review, "some of the Halloween creatures might be a tad scary for smaller children, but this is the kind of movie older kids will eat up; it has the kind of offbeat, subversive energy that tells them wonderful things are likely to happen."—Jim Emerson
Ninja Scroll
Kevin Seymour, Yoshiaki Kawajiri A peak achievement of Japanese anime, Ninja Scroll is a propulsive mix of samurai action adventure and supernatural fantasy from writer-director Yoshiaki Kawajiri (Supernatural Best City). This is defiantly animation for grown-ups, complete with fountains of blood, plenty of naked flesh, and (in both the subtitled and dubbed versions) some decidedly strong language. (Students of Japanese language could pick up some useful expressions.) The plot sounds like a 16th century variation on the X-Files: An entire village has been wiped out by a mysterious plague and an anti-government conspiracy of invulnerable demons seems to be responsible. A wandering ninja, Jubei, and his female counterpart, Kagero, team up to defeat the plotters. Jubei is a classic reluctant hero, agreeing to participate in the mission only after being fed a slow-acting poison; the antidote will be supplied after he cooperates. And Kagero, a looker whose embrace is lethal, is a femme fatale with a difference that seems distinctively Japanese: sexual contact itself is poisonous, especially for a warrior with a pure soul. —David Chute
Star Trek V - The Final Frontier
William Shatner Movie critic Roger Ebert summed it up very succinctly: "Of all of the Star Trek movies, this is the worst." Subsequent films in the popular series have done nothing to disprove this opinion; we can be grateful that they've all been significantly better since this film was released in 1989. After Leonard Nimoy scored hits with Star Trek III and IV, William Shatner used his contractual clout (and bruised ego) to assume directorial duties on this mission, in which a rebellious Vulcan (Laurence Luckinbill) kidnaps Federation officials in his overzealous quest for the supreme source of creation. That's right, you heard it correctly: Star Trek V is about a crazy Vulcan's search for God. By the time Kirk, Spock, and their Federation cohorts are taken to the Great Barrier of the galaxy, this journey to "the final future" has gone from an embarrassing prologue to an absurd conclusion, with a lot of creaky plotting in between. Of course, die-hard Trekkies will still allow this movie into their video collections; but they'll only watch it when nobody else is looking. After this humbling experience, Shatner wisely relinquished the director's chair to Star Trek II's Nicholas Meyer. —Jeff Shannon
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Brad Silberling If you spliced Charles Addams, Dr. Seuss, Charles Dickens, Edward Gorey, and Roald Dahl into a Tim Burtonesque landscape, you'd surely come up with something like Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Many critics (in mostly mixed reviews) wondered why Burton didn't direct this comically morbid adaptation of the first three books in the popular series by Daniel Handler (a.k.a. "Lemony Snicket," played here by Jude Law and seen only in silhouette) instead of TV and Casper veteran Brad Silberling, but there's still plenty to recommend the playfully bleak scenario, in which three resourceful orphans thwart their wicked, maliciously greedy relative Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who subjects them to... well, a series of unfortunate events. Along the way they encounter a herpetologist uncle (Billy Connolly), an anxious aunt (Meryl Streep) who's afraid of everything, and a variety of fantastical hazards and mysterious clues, some of which remain unresolved. Given endless wonders of art direction, costume design, and cinematography, Silberling's direction is surprisingly uninspired (in other words, the books are better), but when you add a throwaway cameo by Dustin Hoffman, Law's amusing narration, and Carrey's over-the-top antics, the first Lemony movie suggests a promising franchise in the making. —Jeff Shannon

DVD features
Packed into the two-disc special edition of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is over two hours of serious behind-the-scenes features, deleted scenes, and interviews with the production staff. The most generous of these is A Woeful World, an in-depth overview of the production design with extensive commentary from Oscar-nominated production designer Rick Heinrichs. Kids who've read the books will enjoy seeing how creative minds transform the world of the books into a movie. "Costumes and Other Suspicious Disguises" is one of the most fun extras with footage of Jim Carrey comically ad-libbing as his different characters during the on-screen costume tests. The special features contained on the single-disc editions are also quite good, but most fans will find it worth it to pay the few extra dollars for this edition because of the insights it gives into the production. —Dan Vancini

A Message from Count Olaf

Dear Adoring Fan of Count Olaf,

Perhaps once every thousand years, a talent emerges that completely changes the way movies are made, orphans are orphaned, and heartthrobs throb. Often this talent has only one eyebrow, as is the case with one of the most cherished and admired actors scheming today. Surely you can you guess of whom I think.

No, you fool! I am referring to the One...the Only...the Unbelievably Handsome Count Olaf!

Or, as I like to call him, Me.

If you've already seen my performance in Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, you must still be speechless. But if you haven't, you are in serious danger. Just teasing. But you could be after I send one of my gifted henchpersons to your home!

So why not get my movie on DVD? This major motion spectacle has everything. Me, acting! Leeches, attacking! Orphans, almost falling off a cliff! Of course, if you are familiar with books by Lemony Snicket, you know that they include all of these things too, but most of what he says is lies, and the rest is completely boring.

There's never been a film that demands repeated viewing in quite the same way, with a diabolical genius writing you a letter that says, "I DEMAND REPEATED VIEWING!!!" Plus with DVD extras, you'll get at least 20% more Olaf for your money. And... just for you, for an unlimited time only, I'll throw in Aunt Josephine free with purchase.*

So, noble Amazonians, put down your hunting spears and exotic headdresses, and prepare to bask in True Greatness. Or, as I like to call it, Me.

Of course you may have my autograph!

Count Olaf

*Count Olaf will not be held liable or accept blame in any way for any and all liability, loss, damage, or personal injury (including death), without limit and without regard once Aunt Josephine is thrown in, due to the unpredictable behavior of hungry leeches.

Stills from Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events (Click to Enlarge)

Violet, Count Olaf, and Klaus

Aunt Josephine

Count Olaf and Aunt Josephine

Directing Jim Carrey

Klaus, Mr. Poe, Sunny, and Violet

Count Olaf

Olaf Ascending

The Baudelaire Orphans

All Things Snicket

See a complete list of all Lemony Snicket's creations, including books from the Series of Unfortunate Events, calendars, and more.

The Essential Lemony Snicket Books

A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Ominous Omnibus, Books 1-3

The Situation Worsens: A Box of Unfortunate Events, Books 4-6

The Dilemma Deepens: A Box of Unfortunate Events, Books 7-9

The Slippery Slope: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 10

The Grim Grotto: A Series of Unfortunate Events, Book 11

A Library of Unfortunate Events, Books 1-10

Behind the Scenes with Count Olaf: A Series of Unfortunate Events Movie Book

Lemony Snicket: The Unauthorized Autobiography

The Puzzling Puzzles Activity Book

More from the Movie

Original Movie Poster

Soundtrack

Wall Poster

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events Computer & Video Games

For PS2

For PC

For Xbox

For GameCube
Apt Pupil
Bryan Singer At the top of his game, Stephen King has a real gift for mining monsters—zero-at-the-bone horror—out of everyday faces and places. Adapted from a novella in the 1982 collection that also spawned Stand by Me and The Shawshank Redemption, Apt Pupil looks at first as if it might draw authentically enlightening terror from the soul-cancer that makes blood relations of a Southern California golden boy (Brad Renfro) and an aging Nazi war criminal (Sir Ian McKellen). Turned on by a high-school course about the Holocaust, Todd Bowden (such a bland handle for this top-of-his-class sociopath!) tracks down Kurt Dussander, a former Gestapo killer hiding in the shadows of sunny SoCal. Blackmailing the old man into sharing his firsthand stories of genocide, the teenager trips out on the virtual reality of the monster's memories. There's perverse play here on the way a kid hungry for knowledge can bring a long-retired teacher or grandparent back to life. Truly superb as James Whale in Gods and Monsters, McKellen brings subtlety to this Stephen King creepshow: his dessicated Dussander is like a mummy or vampire revivified by Todd's appetite for atrocity.

Considerable talent intersects in Apt Pupil: It's director Bryan Singer's first film since The Usual Suspects, that enormously popular, rather heartless thriller-machine. The outstanding cast also includes David Schwimmer as a Jewish guidance counselor pathetically impotent in the face of Todd's talent for evil, and Bruce Davison as Todd's All-American Dad, lacking the capacity to even imagine evil. And the story itself has the potential for gazing into the heart of darkness right here in Hometown, U.S.A. But Apt Pupil just turns ugly and unclean when it trivializes its subject, equating Holocaust horrors with slamming a cat into an oven or offing a nosy vagrant (Elias Koteas). Reducing the great spiritual abyss that lies at the center of the 20th century to cheap slasher-movie thrills and chills is reprehensible. Both Todd and the writers of Apt Pupil should have heeded the old saw: When supping with the devil, best use a long spoon. —Kathleen Murphy
The X-Men Trilogy (X-Men/ X2: X-Men United/ X-Men: The Last Stand)
Bryan Singer, Brett Ratner, Steven E. Gordon Disc 1: *X-Men: The Last Stand *Widescreen Feature *Director & Writer Commentary by Brett Ratner, Zack Penn,and Simon Kinberg *Deleted & Extended Scenes (with optional commentary by Brett Ratner) *3 Alternate Endings *2 Menu Sets: X-Men and Brotherhood *Inside Look- A Night a the Museum *The World of Marvel Trailers *US Component #2237392 *Canadian Bilingual Component #2237393 *Refer to PIS for details

Disc 2: *X2 *Widescreen Feature *Deleted Scenes *US Component #2110485 *Canadian Bilingual Component #2110488 *Refer to PIS for details

Disc 3: *X-Men *Widescreen Feature *US Component #2110095 *Canadian Bilingual #2110098 *Refer to PIS sheet for details

Episode Description: Disc 1: X-Men: The Last Stand Disc 2: X2 Disc 3: X-Men
300 (Combo HD DVD and Standard DVD) [HD DVD]
Zack Snyder The epic graphic novel by Frank Miller (Sin City) assaults the screen with the blood, thunder and awe of its ferocious visual style faithfully recreated in an intense blend of live-action and CGI animation. Retelling the ancient Battle of Thermopylae, it depicts the titanic clash in which King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and 300 Spartans fought to the death against Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro) and his massive Persian army. Experience history at swordpoint. And moviemaking with a cutting edge.
Ocean's Twelve
Steven Soderbergh Like its predecessor Ocean's Eleven, Ocean's Twelve is a piffle of a caper, a preposterous plot given juice and vitality by a combination of movie star glamour and the exuberant filmmaking skill of director Steven Soderbergh (Out of Sight, The Limey). The heist hijinks of the first film come to roost for a team of eleven thieves (including the glossy mugs of Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, and Don Cheadle), who find themselves pursued not only by the guy they robbed (silky Andy Garcia), but also by a top-notch detective (plush Catherine Zeta-Jones) and a jealous master thief (well-oiled Vincent Cassel) who wants to prove that team leader Danny Ocean (dapper George Clooney) isn't the best in the field. As if all that star power weren't enough—and the eternally coltish Julia Roberts also returns as Ocean's wife—one movie star cameo raises the movie's combined wattage to absurd proportions. But all these handsome faces are matched by Soderbergh's visual flash, cunning editing, and excellent use of Amsterdam, Paris, and Rome, among other highly decorative locations. The whole affair should collapse under the weight of its own silliness, but somehow it doesn't—the movie's raffish spirit and offhand wit soar along, providing lightweight but undeniable entertainment. —Bret Fetzer
Hackers
Iain Softley When a teenager hacker unlocks the secrets of a secured super computer he discovers a high-tech embezzlement scheme. Studio: Tcfhe/mgm Release Date: 04/10/2001 Starring: Johnny Lee Miller Matthew Lillard Run time: 105 minutes Rating: Pg13 Director: Iain Softley
Happiness
Todd Solondz At times brilliant and insightful, at times repellent and false, Happiness is director Todd Solondz's multistory tale of sex, perversion, and loneliness. Plumbing depths of Crumb-like angst and rejection, Solondz won the Cannes International Critics Prize in 1998 and the film was a staple of nearly every critic's Top Ten list. Admirable, shocking, and hilarious for its sarcastic yet strangely empathetic look at consenting adults' confusion between lust and love, the film stares unflinchingly until the audience blinks. But it doesn't stop there. A word of strong caution to parents: One of the main characters, a suburban super dad (played by Dylan Baker), is really a predatory pedophile and there is more than an attempt to paint him as a sympathetic character. Children are used in this film as running gags or, worse, the means to an end. Whether that end is a humorous scene for Solondz or sexual gratification for the rapist becomes largely irrelevant. Happiness is an intelligent, sad film, revelatory and exact at moments. It's also abuse in the guise of art. That's nothing to celebrate. —Keith Simanton
Schindler's List
Steven Spielberg Steven Spielberg had a banner year in 1993. He scored one of his biggest commercial hits that summer with the mega-hit Jurassic Park, but it was the artistic and critical triumph of Schindler's List that Spielberg called "the most satisfying experience of my career." Adapted from the best-selling book by Thomas Keneally and filmed in Poland with an emphasis on absolute authenticity, Spielberg's masterpiece ranks among the greatest films ever made about the Holocaust during World War II. It's a film about heroism with an unlikely hero at its center—Catholic war profiteer Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), who risked his life and went bankrupt to save more than 1,000 Jews from certain death in concentration camps.

By employing Jews in his crockery factory manufacturing goods for the German army, Schindler ensures their survival against terrifying odds. At the same time, he must remain solvent with the help of a Jewish accountant (Ben Kingsley) and negotiate business with a vicious, obstinate Nazi commandant (Ralph Fiennes) who enjoys shooting Jews as target practice from the balcony of his villa overlooking a prison camp. Schindler's List gains much of its power not by trying to explain Schindler's motivations, but by dramatizing the delicate diplomacy and determination with which he carried out his generous deeds.

As a drinker and womanizer who thought nothing of associating with Nazis, Schindler was hardly a model of decency; the film is largely about his transformation in response to the horror around him. Spielberg doesn't flinch from that horror, and the result is a film that combines remarkable humanity with abhorrent inhumanity—a film that functions as a powerful history lesson and a testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the context of a living nightmare. —Jeff Shannon
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull [Blu-ray]
Steven Spielberg Paramount Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (2 Disc) (Blu-ray) Steven Spielberg and GeorgeLucas bring you the greatest adventurer of all time in "a nonstop thrill ride" (Richard Corliss, Time) that's packed with "sensational, awe-inspiringspectacles" (Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times). "Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull" finds Indy (Harrison Ford) trying to outrace a brilliant and beautiful agent (Cate Blanchett) for the mystical, all-powerful Crystal Skull of Akator. Teaming up with a rebellious young biker (Shia LaBeouf) and his spirited original love Marion (KarenAllen), Indy takes you on a breathtaking action-packed adventure in the exciting tradition of the classic "Indiana Jones" movies.
The 6th Day
Roger Spottiswoode For a movie about cloning, it's only appropriate that The 6th Day, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, is instilled with a strong sense of déjà vu, namely from Arnold's previous "Who am I?" outing, Total Recall. In that movie, Arnold is a normal Joe who discovers that his entire reality has been co-opted by an evil conspiracy, and has to take his life back by force. The same premise applies here for Roger Spottiswoode's clever if overlong sci-fi thriller—Arnold thinks he's a regular guy leading a regular life, until a twist of fate puts him on the lam from a vast conspiracy that's replaced him with a clone. While he's trying to evade the evil genetics corporation—and its trendy, deadly, clone-friendly assassins (who don't care how many times they're killed: there's more where that came from)—his double is snuggling at home with his wife and daughter. And new legislation outlaws the existence of human clones, so somebody's got to go. But who gets to be live and who gets to be the dead Memorex man?

Why does said genetics corporation want to clone people? How does the kindly scientist (Robert Duvall) fit in? What's the mystery behind the slick billionaire (Tony Goldwyn) who runs everything? It's all kind of irrelevant in the end, as long as it provides a chance for Arnold to indulge in some energetic mayhem and explosive action. What distinguishes The 6th Day is its sneaky, humorous—and chilling—look at the near future, taking everyday technological advances and turning them up just a couple notches, envisioning an era with cloned pets, virtual girlfriends, and computers running most everything, from the refrigerator to your car. Arnold is supposed to be a throwback to the "real" world—you can tell because he cherishes his vintage, navigation-system-free Cadillac—but as usual, he just brings his behemoth presence to the role and not much else. Still, he's a friendly enough hero, and he rolls with the punches (literally) all the way through to the end. Too bad the film overstays its welcome by about half an hour—a little shorter and it could have been a breezy sci-fi/action romp. With scene stealers Michael Rooker, Sarah Wynter, and Rod Rowland as the trio of cloned assassins who always come back—again and again. —Mark Englehart
Finding Nemo
Andrew Stanton A delightful undersea world unfolds in Pixar's animated adventure Finding Nemo. When his son Nemo is captured by a scuba-diver, a nervous-nellie clownfish named Marlin (voiced by Albert Brooks) sets off into the vast—and astonishingly detailed—ocean to find him. Along the way he hooks up with a scatterbrained blue tang fish named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres), who's both helpful and a hindrance, sometimes at the same time. Faced with sharks, deep-sea anglers, fields of poisonous jellyfish, sea turtles, pelicans, and much more, Marlin rises above his neuroses in this wonderfully funny and nonstop thrill ride—rarely does more than 10 minutes pass without a sequence destined to become a theme park attraction. Pixar continues its run of impeccable artistic and economic success (their movies include Toy Story, A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, and Monsters, Inc). Also featuring the voices of Willem Dafoe, Geoffrey Rush, and Allison Janney. —Bret Fetzer
Wall-E (Three-Disc Special Edition + Digital Copy and BD Live) [Blu-ray]
Andrew Stanton Disney WALL-E (Blu-ray) Even for Pixar, this might be a first: an animated film that contains not only afully realized world as photorealistic as it is full of wonder, but also the Gargantuan themes and visuals of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY, the stripped-down sad-clown pathos found in classic Buster Keaton comedies, and one of the most moving and simply unique love stories in a long time. Director Andrew Stanton kicked up the visual acuity of an already-stellar Pixar Animation Studios in 2003 with a reflective, refractive, color-shimmery realization ofthe oceanic world of FINDING NEMO, which genuinely felt as though it spanned the entire earth. WithWALL-E, Stanton replaces an apprehensively fishy estranged journeyer with a love-struck and curiousrobotic one, allowing the quest for eternal love to expand from a desolate, dust-covered, palpably polluted future Earth and into an even more mysterious abyss: the far reaches of outer space.
Kung Fu Panda (+BD Live) [Blu-ray]
John Stevenson Studio: Paramount Home Video Release Date: 11/07/2008 Run time: 88 minutes Rating: Pg
Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Mel Stuart, J.M. Kenny Having proven itself as a favorite film of children around the world, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is every bit as entertaining now as it was when originally released in 1971. There's a timeless appeal to Roald Dahl's classic children's novel, which was playfully preserved in this charming musical, from the colorful carnival-like splendor of its production design to the infectious melody of the "Oompah-Loompah" songs that punctuate the story. Who can forget those diminutive Oompah-Loompah workers who recite rhyming parental warnings ("Oompah-Loompah, doopity do...") whenever some mischievous child has disobeyed Willy Wonka's orders to remain orderly? Oh, but we're getting ahead of ourselves ... it's really the story of the impoverished Charlie Bucket, who, along with four other kids and their parental guests, wins a coveted golden ticket to enter the fantastic realm of Wonka's mysterious confectionery. After the other kids have proven themselves to be irresponsible brats, it's Charlie who impresses Wonka and wins a reward beyond his wildest dreams. But before that, the tour of Wonka's factory provides a dazzling parade of delights, and with Gene Wilder giving a brilliant performance as the eccentric candyman, Wonka gains an edge of menace and madness that nicely counterbalances the movie's sentimental sweetness. It's that willingness to risk a darker tone—to show that even a wonderland like Wonka's can be a weird and dangerous place if you're a bad kid—that makes this an enduring family classic. —Jeff Shannon
Tank Girl
Rachel Talalay The Year is 2033. Earth has been clobbered with a comet, civilization has been destroyed, and it hasn't rained in 11 years. Nearly all the water on the planet is controlled by the evil Water and Power company, which is in turn controlled by the even more evil Kesslee (Malcolm McDowell). Who stands in the way? Some mysterious mutants called the Rippers and, of course, Tank Girl. Lori Petty plays Tank Girl, the wisecracking, defiant heart of the movie, as kind of an inner child gone wild. Unfortunately Petty can't quite carry a movie on her own—her zingers frequently fall flat and she seems to be continually worried that we still like her. Luckily there's Naomi Watts as Jet Girl to save the day: smart, shy, and inherently way more appealing than Tank Girl. Tank Girl is based on the comic of the same name, and it is visually an eye-popper. It's worth watching for the insane set and costume designs alone. —Ali Davis
Kill Bill, Volume 1
Quentin Tarantino Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill, Vol. 1 is trash for connoisseurs. From his opening gambit (including a "Shaw-Scope" logo and gaudy '70s-vintage "Our Feature Presentation" title card) to his cliffhanger finale (a teasing lead-in to 2004's Vol. 2), Tarantino pays loving tribute to grindhouse cinema, specifically the Hong Kong action flicks and spaghetti Westerns that fill his fervent brain—and this frequently breathtaking movie—with enough cinematic references and cleverly pilfered soundtrack cues to send cinephiles running for their reference books. Everything old is new again in Tarantino's humor-laced vision: he steals from the best while injecting his own oft-copied, never-duplicated style into what is, quite simply, a revenge flick, beginning with the near-murder of the Bride (Uma Thurman), pregnant on her wedding day and left for dead by the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (or DiVAS)—including Lucy Liu and the unseen David Carradine (as Bill)—who become targets for the Bride's lethal vengeance. Culminating in an ultraviolent, ultra-stylized tour-de-force showdown, Tarantino's fourth film is either brilliantly (and brutally) innovative or one of the most blatant acts of plagiarism ever conceived. Either way, it's hyperkinetic eye-candy from a passionate film-lover who clearly knows what he's doing. —Jeff Shannon
Star Wars - Clone Wars, Vol. 1 (Animated)
Genndy Tartakovsky Make no mistake, Clone Wars is honest-to-goodness authentic Star Wars. The animated series takes place between Episode II, Attack of the Clones and Episode III, Revenge of the Sith. If the feature films covers the beginning and end of the war, Clone Wars depicts the actual battles and events that made heroes into legends. Don't expect too much character development, as the episodes tend to be driven more by flat-out action than by dialogue (which can be a good thing, considering some Star Wars dialogue). We see such familiar faces as Obi-Wan Kenobi, Yoda, and Mace Windu in combat, and we meet the elite ARC (Advanced Recon Commandos) clone troopers plus new Jedi—the amphibious Kit Fisto and two women, Luminara Unduli and Barriss Offee. We also see a little more development of Anakin—showing off the best pilot skills in the army, defying Obi-Wan, and engaging in a deadly duel with Sith apprentice Asajj Ventress. But just when it's clear that the Separatist droid armies are no match for a Jedi, the tide begins to turn with the introduction of the menacing General Grievous, who plays a crucial part in Episode III. The cast mostly consists of veteran voice actors, but Anthony Daniels does appear as C-3PO.

Clone Wars was created by Genndy Tartakovsky, whose resume includes such stylish series as Samurai Jack, Dexter's Laboratory, and The Powerpuff Girls, and the program won a 2004 Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming One Hour or More). These 20 episodes, which played on the Cartoon Network (and were originally designated seasons 1 and 2), can be viewed as a seamless 69-minute whole or as individual chapters. DVD features include two commentary tracks, a making-of featurette, video game and Episode III trailers, and an Xbox playable demo of the stealth game Republic Commando. If you're a fan who can't wait for Episode III, Clone Wars is essential viewing. —David Horiuchi
National Treasure
Jon Turteltaub Like a Hardy Boys mystery on steroids, National Treasure offers popcorn thrills and enough boyish charm to overcome its rampant silliness. Although it was roundly criticized as a poor man's rip-off of Raiders of the Lost Ark and The Da Vinci Code, it's entertaining on its own ludicrous terms, and Nicolas Cage proves once again that one actor's infectious enthusiasm can compensate for a multitude of movie sins. The contrived plot involves Cage's present-day quest for the ancient treasure of the Knights Templar, kept secret through the ages by Freemasons past and present. Finding the treasure requires the theft of the Declaration of Independence (there are crucial treasure clues on the back, of course!), so you can add "caper comedy" to this Jerry Bruckheimer production's multi-genre appeal. Nobody will ever accuse director Jon Turtletaub of artistic ambition, but you've got to admit he serves up an enjoyable dose of PG-rated entertainment, full of musty clues, skeletons, deep tunnels, and harmless adventure in the old-school tradition. It's a load of hokum, but it's fun hokum, and that makes all the difference. —Jeff Shannon
Barbarella: Queen of the Galaxy (REGION 1) (NTSC)
Roger Vadim * * * * - Jane Fonda's memorable, zero-gravity striptease during the opening credits of this 1968 Roger Vadim movie is the closest the film comes to a liberated marriage of wit and sex. Based on a French comic strip, the story concerns the adventures of a 41st-century woman, who pretty much gets it on with whomever asks. The sci-fi sets were pretty interesting at the time, though they look rather anachronistic now. Appreciated today mostly as a camp classic, the movie is actually more trying than anything else. —Tom Keogh
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest [Blu-ray]
Gore Verbinski Take the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, add a dash of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and a lot more rum. Shake well and you'll have something resembling Dead Man's Chest, a bombastic sequel that's enjoyable as long as you don't think too hard about it. The film opens with the interrupted wedding of Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley), both of whom are arrested for aiding in the escape of Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) in the first film. Their freedom can only be obtained by getting Captain Jack's compass, which is linked to a key that's linked to a chest belonging to Davy Jones, an undead pirate with a tentacle face and in possession of a lot of people's souls. If you're already confused, don't worry—plot is definitely not the strong suit of the franchise, as the film excels during its stunt pieces, which are impressively extravagant (in particular a three-way swordfight atop a mill wheel). It may help to know that Dead Man's Chest was filmed simultaneously with some of Pirates 3, so don't expect a complete resolution (think more The Empire Strikes Back) or the movie will feel a lot longer than it really is.

Bloom shows a tad bit more brawn this time around, but he's still every bit as pretty as the tomboyish Knightley. (Seriously, sometimes you think they could swap roles.) Bill Nighy (Love, Actually) weighs in as Davy Jones and Stellan Skarsgård appears as Will's undead father. But the film still belongs wholly to Depp, who in a reprise of his Oscar-nominated role gets all the belly laughs with a single widened eyeliner-ed gaze. He still runs like a cartoon hen and slurs like Keith Richards—and he's still one of the most fascinating movie characters in recent history. —Ellen A. Kim
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End [Blu-ray]
Gore Verbinski Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End is a rollicking voyage in the same spirit of the two earlier Pirates films, yet far darker in spots (and nearly three hours to boot). The action, largely revolving around a pirate alliance against the ruthless East India Trading Company, doesn't disappoint, though the violence is probably too harsh for young children. Through it all, the plucky cast (Keira Knightley, Orlando Bloom, Geoffrey Rush) are buffeted by battle, maelstroms, betrayal, treachery, a ferocious Caribbean weather goddess, and that gnarly voyage back from the world's end—but with their wit intact. As always, Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow tosses off great lines ; he chastises "a woman scorned, like which hell hath no fury than!" He insults an opponent with a string of epithets, ending in "yeasty codpiece."!

In the previous The Curse of the Black Pearl, Sparrow was killed—sent to Davy Jones' Locker. In the opening scenes, the viewer sees that death has not been kind to Sparrow—but that's not to say he hasn't found endless ways to amuse himself, cavorting with dozens of hallucinated versions of himself on the deck of the Black Pearl. But Sparrow is needed in this world, so a daring rescue brings him back. Keith Richards' much ballyhooed appearance as Jack's dad is little more than a cameo, though he does play a wistful guitar. But the action, as always, is more than satisfying, held together by Depp, who, outsmarting the far-better-armed British yet again, causes a bewigged commander to muse: "Do you think he plans it all out, or just makes it up as he goes along?" As far as fans are concerned, it matters not. —A.T. Hurley

On the DVD
Here's something you can't say about just any DVD extras: There appears to be more of Keith Richards in the outtakes, interviews, and other special features on the At World's End disc than in the actual film. For those scenes alone, this special edition is well worth the price. Richards looks as woozy and gamey as all the rumors suggested, and answers questions he's not asked, with Johnny Depp sitting next to him, almost acting as a translator. Richards offers pithy comments like, "Everything I do is original, you better believe," and smiles when other cast members call him "Two-Take Richards" for supposedly nailing his scenes.

The packed second disc also includes a terrific mini-doc on how the filmmakers created the famous maelstrom, in an enormous hanger in Palmdale, California, with the ships floating 30 feet off the ground. "Just moving the Black Pearl was an enormous undertaking," says producer Jerry Bruckheimer with serious understatement. Other cool extras include "Tale of the Many Jacks," deleted scenes with great commentary, "The World of Chow Yun-Fat," a bio of composer Hans Zimmer, features on the set designers, a look at the impressive Brethren Court, and some hilarious bloopers. "You can't curse in a Disney film," deadpans Depp when a costar blurts out something blue. "See? I told him." The extras are truly as much of a rollicking adventure as the film. —A.T. Hurley

Beyond Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
Our Pirates of the Caribbean Store
Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End Soundtrack
Why We Love… Bill Nighy
Johnny Depp Essential DVDs Stills from Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (click for larger image)
Total Recall
Paul Verhoeven This science fiction blockbuster from 1990 began its production life as a very different movie than the one that was released. An adaptation of the Philip K. Dick short story "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale,"Total Recall was originally conceived of with Richard Dreyfuss starring as a Walter Mitty-like character who experiences a variety of artificially induced fantasies. The movie we know is a mega-budget action epic set on Mars. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a normal working man who discovers that his entire reality has been invented to conceal a plot of planetary domination. Oscar-winning special effects and violent action propel the twisting plot, in which Arnold manipulates his manipulators in a world of dazzling high technology. Director Paul Verhoeven (Robocop) indulges his usual penchant for gratuitous bloodshed, but the movie has enough cleverness to rise above its excesses. —Jeff Shannon
Starship Troopers (+ BD Live) [Blu-ray]
Paul Verhoeven Tristar Starship Troopers (Blu-ray) From the bridge ofthe Fleet Battlestation Ticonderoga, with its sweeping galactic views, to the desolate terrain of planet Klendathu, teeming with shrieking, fire-spitting, brain-sucking special effects creatures, acclaimed director Paul Verhoeven crafts a dazzling epic based on Robert A. Heinlein's classic sci-fi adventure. Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards, Jake Busey, Neil Patrick Harris, Patrick Muldoon, and Michael Ironside star as the courageous soldiers who travel to the distant and desolate Klendathu system for the ultimate showdown between the species.
Robocop Trilogy
Paul Verhoeven, Irvin Kershner, Fred Dekker The first Robocop was thrilling, hilarious, and totally original—none of which has as much to do with the film's spawning two sequels (plus two separate television shows) as its $50 million-plus take at the box office. Though the Law of Diminishing Returns inevitably applies to the theatrical trilogy, the central premise is so strong that each of the lesser sequels has at least a few moments worth catching. That's because the original (wherein Detroit cop Peter Weller, killed in the line of duty, gets transformed into a crime-fighting cyborg) set up an entire world. Director Paul Verhoeven spends as much time lampooning television news, commercial products, and big business as he does on the story; however violent or gory things get (and they get quite icky), the tone throughout is comic, even giddy. Robocop 2, helmed by Irvin Kershner of The Empire Strikes Back fame, sobers up considerably. The film is rather underrated; sure, there are fewer ads and newsbreaks this time around, but there are several inventive touches—Robocop is briefly reprogrammed into a homily-spouting Dudley Do-Right; drug dealers step in to bail out the financially strapped city—and the villains (including the most foul-mouthed, amoral 12-year-old in movie history) are less outrageous than in the first installment. Robocop 3, however, is profit-driven hash. Having Robocop (now acted by Robert John Burke) join a citizens' uprising is a nice idea, and even the ninja android could have been fun, but the movie tries too often to be heartwarming, an emotion thoroughly out of place in this wickedly satirical series. —Bruce Reid
Animaniacs, Vol. 1
Charles Visser, Jenny Lerew, Bob Kline As a splendid homage to the legacy of Warner Bros. animation, the Emmy and Peabody award-winning Animaniacs was arguably the most inventive and deliriously entertaining cartoon series of the 1990s. The series' appeal is at least two-fold: kids will enjoy the wacky characters and easy-to-follow comedy, and grownups raised on "Looney Tunes" and "Merrie Melodies" cartoons will love the show's knowledgeable movie spoofs, witty satire, and spontaneous lines of dialogue aimed squarely at an older audience with an appreciation for Hollywood history. Cartoon lovers and film buffs will benefit the most from repeated viewings of Animaniacs since the series was conceived by head writer Tom Ruegger (under the supervision of executive producer Steven Spielberg) as an affectionate tribute to the golden age of Hollywood, with its wild and wonderful cast of cartoon characters led by "Warner Brothers" Wakko and Yakko, and their ever-so-cute Warner sister, Dot, a playful trio of indeterminate species who were (fictionally) created in the early 1930s by the overworked animators of "Termite Terrace" (the actual name given to Warner's animation studios) and wreaked havoc on the Warner Bros. backlot until they were caught and captured in the studio's water tower. Every episode begins with their clever escape, leading to wacky adventures involving the entire cast of Animaniacs, a menagerie of colorful characters worthy of cartoon immortality.

This five-DVD set offers 25 beautifully preserved episodes (out of a five-season total of 99), mostly from the first season (1993), when Spielberg was also enjoying the success of Jurassic Park and Schindler's List. Premiering on the Fox Kids network, the series introduced delighted viewers to Pinky and the Brain; Slappy the Squirrel (a curmudgeonly veteran of decades in show-biz); the Goodfeathers (a pigeon-trio spoof of Martin Scorsese's Goodfellas); Rita and Runt (a dog and cat duo often featured in musical spoofs, the former voiced by Bernadette Peters); and a wide variety of peripheral characters who randomly appeared as part of the series' multi-segment format. Some segments are brief and brilliant (including many original songs that qualify as mini-masterpieces of educational entertainment), while others are cartoon-length adventures like the unforgettable "Bumbie's Mom," a riff on Bambi (and Disney animation) that's one of many first-season highlights. Smart, literate, and totally irreverent, Animaniacs benefited from all the prestige that Spielberg's involvement could bring, including a once-in-a-lifetime voice cast (honored here by disc 3's special featurette "Animaniacs Live," hosted by "Annie"-award-winner Maurice "The Brain" LeMarche) and amazing musical scores (many written or supervised by the late, great Richard Stone) that were recorded in the very same Warner studio where the legendary Carl Stalling scored most of the classic Warner Bros. cartoons. With creative and comedic highlights too numerous to mention, Animaniacs is must-see TV for those who missed it the first time around, and a welcome treasure for established fans who will cherish these DVDs for many years to come. —Jeff Shannon
Animaniacs, Vol. 2
Charles Visser, Jenny Lerew, Bob Kline Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs! The adventures or misadventures of the Warner Brothers, Yakko and Wakko, and the Warner Sister, Dot, who were so crazy that the studio execs locked them away in the water town at the Studio. The witty, slapstick humor with pop culture parodies and cartoon wackiness is on DVD for the first time ever with 25 fantastic Animaniacs episodes.
Animaniacs, Vol. 3
Charles Visser, Jenny Lerew, Bob Kline Steven Spielberg Presents Animaniacs! The adventures or misadventures of the Warner Brothers, Yakko and Wakko, and the Warner Sister, Dot, who were so crazy that the studio execs locked them away in the water town at the Studio. The witty, slapstick humor with pop culture parodies and cartoon wackiness is on DVD for the first time ever with 25 fantastic Animaniacs episodes.
The Ultimate Matrix Collection (The Matrix / Reloaded /Revolutions /Experience/The Animatrix)
Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski The definitive ten-disc DVD set, The Ultimate Matrix Collection features all three films in the trilogy together for the first time ever with a newly remastered picture and sound for The Matrix. Also included is the companion piece The Matrix Revisited and the best-selling The Animatrix, plus five entirely new DVDs packed solid with brand-new supplemental materials that encompass every aspect of the Matrix universe, including two new audio commentaries on each film, Enter the Matrix video game footage, 106 deep-delving featurettes/ documentaries and much more!

DVD Features:
Additional Scenes:Filmed for Enter the Matrix video game
Audio Commentary:The Philosophers: Dr. Cornel West and Ken Wilber; The Critics: Todd McCarthy, John Powers and David Thomson
DVD ROM Features
Documentary
Easter Eggs
Featurette
Introduction:by the Wachowski Brothers
Music Video
Photo gallery
Storyboards
TV Spot
Theatrical Trailer
The Ultimate Matrix Collection [HD DVD]
Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski Warner Brothers The Ultimate Matrix Collection (HD-DVD)

The definitive ten-disc DVD set, The "Ultimate Matrix Collection" features all three films in the trilogy together for the first time ever with a newly remastered picture and sound for "The Matrix." Also included is the companion piece "The Matrix Revisited" and the best-selling "The Animatrix," plus five entirely new DVDs packed solid with brand-new supplemental materials that encompass every aspect of the Matrix universe, including two new audio commentaries on each film, Enter the Matrix video game footage, 106 deep-delving featurettes/ documentaries and much more!
Speed Racer (Three-Disc Special Edition + Digital Copy) [Blu-ray]
Andy Wachowski, Larry Wachowski Warner Brothers Speed Racer (Blu-ray) Start your engines and fasten your seatbelts for the high-octane adventure "Speed Racer", combining heartfelt family humor and groundbreaking visual effects. "Speed Racer" (Emile Hirsch) is a natural behind the wheel of his thunderous Mach 5. With support from Pops and Mom Racer (John Goodman and Susan Sarandon), girlfriendTrixie (Christina Ricci), younger brother Spritle(Paulie Litt) and the mysterious Racer X (MatthewFox), Speed takes on fierce competitors to save his family's business and protect the sport he loves. When Speed steps onto the track, it's not just a race. It's an adrenaline-fueled, high-speed charge to the finish. "Go, Speed Racer, go".
Bound
Larry Wachowski, Andy Wachowski Destined for cult status, this provocative thriller offers a grab bag of genres (gangster movie, comedy, sexy romance, crime caper) and tops it all off with steamy passion between lesbian ex-con Corky (Gina Gershon) and a not-so-ditzy gun moll named Violet (Jennifer Tilly), who meets Corky and immediately tires of her mobster boyfriend (Joe Pantoliano). Desperate to break away from the Mob's influence and live happily ever after, the daring dames hatch a plot to steal $2 million of Mafia money. Their scheme runs into a series of escalating complications, until their very survival depends on split-second timing and criminal ingenuity. Simultaneously violent, funny, and suspenseful, Bound is sure to test your tolerance for bloodshed, but the film is crafted with such undeniable skill that several critics (including Roger Ebert) placed it on their top-ten lists for 1996. —Jeff Shannon
Con Air
Simon West * * * * - Con Air is proof that the slick, absurdly overblown action formula of Hollywood mega-producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer (Top Gun, Days of Thunder, The Rock, Crimson Tide) lives on, even after Simpson's druggy death. (Read Charles Fleming's exposé, High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess, for more about that.) Nicolas Cage, sporting a disconcerting mane of hair, is a wrongly convicted prisoner on a transport plane with a bunch of infamously psychopathic criminals, including head creep Cyrus the Virus (John Malkovich), black militant Diamond Dog (Ving Rhames), and serial killer Garland Greene (Steve Buscemi, making the most of his pallid, rodent-like qualities). Naturally, the convicts take over the plane; meanwhile, on the ground, a US marshal (John Cusack) and a DEA agent (Colm Meaney), try to figure out what to do. As is the postmodern way, the movie displays a self-consciously ironic awareness that its story and characters are really just excuses for a high-tech cinematic thrill ride. Best idea: the filmmakers persuaded the owners of the legendary Sands Hotel in Las Vegas to let them help out with the structure's demolition by crashing their plane into it. —Jim Emerson
Star Wars Ewok Adventures - Caravan of Courage (aka The Ewok Adventure) / The Battle for Endor
Jim Wheat, Ken Wheat, John Korty
The 10th Kingdom
Herbert Wise, David Carson This epic 10-hour miniseries from the Emmy-winning writer of Gulliver's Travels was a ratings bust on television, but on video and DVD, where it can be enjoyed at one's leisure, it has a better chance to cast its magical spell. Kimberly Williams has never been more enchanting than as Virginia, a waitress who still lives with her janitor father (John Larroquette) and yearns for something exciting to happen to her. Her wish comes true when she and her father are transported from New York City into a dimension that, with apologies to Rod Serling, can only be called the Fairy Tale Zone; nine kingdoms populated by characters from fairy tales of yore. They team up with a dog who's really a prince—Wendell, grandson of Snow White—changed into canine form by the evil Queen (Dianne Wiest), who plots to usurp Wendell's throne. Father, daughter, and his royal dogness are relentlessly pursued through the nine kingdoms by the Troll King (Ed O'Neill) and his three bumbling and horrible children, and the conflicted Wolf (Scott Cohen), who is allied with the Queen but, with the aid of some Oprah-esque self-help books, tames his inner beast and falls in love with Virginia. The 10th Kingdom is a special effects extravaganza. There is indeed, as one character marvels, magic to behold here. But despite the Hallmark brand name and the presence of a grown-up Snow White (Camryn Manheim) and Cinderella (Ann-Margret), bewitched animals, magic mirrors, and trolls, this is not kid's stuff. It can get scary, surprisingly violent, and quite intense; you know, just like real fairy tales. —Donald Liebenson
The Andromeda Strain
Robert Wise The best-selling novel by Michael Crichton was faithfully adapted for this taut 1971 thriller, about a team of scientists racing against time to destroy a deadly alien virus that threatens to wipe out life on Earth. As usual with any Crichton-based movie, the emphasis is on an exciting clash between nature and science, beginning when virologists discover the outer-space virus in a tiny town full of corpses. Projecting total contamination, the scientists isolate the deadly strain in a massive, high-tech underground lab facility, which is rigged for nuclear destruction if the virus is not successfully controlled. The movie spends a great deal of time covering the scientific procedures of the high-pressure investigation, and the rising tensions between scientists who have been forced to work in claustrophobic conditions. It's all very fascinating if you're interested in scientific method and technological advances, although the film is obviously dated in many of its details. It's more effective as a thriller in which tension is derived not only from the deadly threat of the virus, but from the escalating fear and anxiety among the small group of people who've been assigned to save the human race. The basic premise is still captivating; it's easy to see how this became the foundation of Crichton's science-thriller empire. —Jeff Shannon
Underworld
Len Wiseman Excellent condition, includes the original DVD, case, and paperwork, fast shipped, ask me for my DVD List!;
Underworld - Evolution
Len Wiseman Better action, a bit of sex, and gorier R-rated violence make Underworld: Evolution a reasonably satisfying sequel to 2003's surprise hit Underworld. Looking stunning as ever in her black leather battle gear, Kate Beckinsale is every goth guy's fantasy as Selene, the vampire "death dealer" who's now fighting to stop the release of the original "Lycan" werewolf, William (Brian Steele) from the prison that's held him for centuries. As we learn from the film's action-packed prologue, William and his brother Marcus (Tony Curran) began the bloodline of vampires and werewolves, and after witnessing centuries of warfare between them, their immortal father Corvinus (Derek Jacobi) now seeks Selene and the human vampire/lycan hybrid Michael (Scott Speedman) to put an end to the war perpetuated by Victor (Bill Nighy), the vampire warrior whose betrayal of Selene turns Underworld: Evolution into an epic tale of familial revenge. This ambitious attempt at Shakespearean horror is compromised by a script (by Danny McBride and returning director Len Wiseman, Beckinsale's real-life husband) that's more confusing than it needs to be, with too many characters and not enough storytelling detail to flesh them all out. Aspiring to greatness and falling well short of that goal, Underworld: Evolution succeeds instead as a full-throttle action/horror thriller, with enough swordplay, gunplay, and CGI monsters to justify the continuation of the Underworld franchise. If you're an established fan, this is a must-see movie; if not, well... at least it's better than Van Helsing! —Jeff Shannon
Paycheck
John Woo The brainy, paranoid science fiction of writer Philip K. Dick has inspired one visionary classic (Blade Runner) and two above-average action movies (Total Recall and Minority Report). Paycheck aspires to follow in their footsteps: An engineer (Ben Affleck, Chasing Amy) routinely agrees to have his memory erased after every job so that he doesn't know what he's done. But after the biggest job of his life, he discovers that not only has he refused a $90 million paycheck, he's sent himself an envelope full of things he doesn't recognize—and he doesn't remember doing any of this. As he unravels the plot, he discovers he's also fallen in love (with Uma Thurman, Kill Bill) and invented a dangerous device for his former boss (Aaron Eckhart, Erin Brockovich). Affleck is bland, the script ruins a cunning idea, and the direction—from the normally dynamic John Woo (Face/Off)—plods along, aimless and bored. —Bret Fetzer
Boiler Room
Ben Younger The intense soundtrack of Boiler Room is a fitting underscore for this movie, which pulses with the vigor of young, rich, amoral men wreaking havoc. This is not the antisocietal havoc of Fight Club, but the more deliberate mayhem that comes from greed run amok. The testosterone-junkie brokers of J.T. Marlin (the only female in the office is Abby, the receptionist and love interest, played by Nia Long) are out to make the sale, and whether that sale is legal or ethical doesn't matter.

Seth Davis (Giovanni Ribisi) is a 19-year-old college dropout who strives for approval from his father (Ron Rifkin), a judge who is horrified that his son operates a 24-hour illicit casino. When an old friend visits the casino with a fellow broker, Davis is impressed by their wads of money and yellow Ferrari, and decides to join the firm. In no time he's making sales and settling into the groove of the office and all the after-hours perks, but the dream fades when Davis discovers the scam that is making all of the brokers wealthy beyond their dreams.

Borrowing heavily from Wall Street and Glengarry Glen Ross, Boiler Room is at its best when dealing with matters of money, and powerful scenes of Davis learning to be a "closer" showcase the significant talent of Ribisi, Nicky Katt, and Vin Diesel. The movie flounders when developing the relationship between Davis and his father, becoming sentimental and trite. However, as a fable of modern society and a nostalgic vehicle about the days of yuppies past, Boiler Room is right on the money. —Jenny Brown
Searching for Bobby Fischer
Steven Zaillian Steve Zaillian, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of Schindler's List, made his directorial debut with this critically acclaimed but little-seen drama based on the nonfiction book by Fred Waitzkin, about a father (Joe Mantegna) who discovers that his seven-year-old son (Max Pomeranc) is a genius at playing chess. The boy plays chess for fun, but when he's tutored by a former champion (Ben Kingsley) and entered into high-pressure competitions, an enjoyable pastime becomes a source of tension and resentment, forcing the father to reconsider his parental priorities. A poignant study of the difference between parental idealism and proper parenting, the movie is also an observantly witty portrait of a precocious child who is still, after all, a child, and still eager for the joyful discoveries of youth. While offering a fascinating look into the world of competitive chess, the movie's dramatically engrossing and extremely well-acted by a brilliant cast that also includes David Paymer, William H. Macy, and Dan Hedaya in memorable supporting roles. —Jeff Shannon
Contact
Robert Zemeckis The opening and closing moments of Robert (Forrest Gump) Zemeckis's Contact astonish viewers with the sort of breathtaking conceptual imagery one hardly ever sees in movies these day—each is an expression of the heroine's lifelong quest (both spiritual and scientific) to explore the meaning of human existence through contact with extraterrestrial life. The movie begins by soaring far out into space, then returns dizzyingly to earth until all the stars in the heavens condense into the sparkle in one little girl's eye. It ends with that same girl as an adult (Jodie Foster)—her search having taken her to places beyond her imagination—turning her gaze inward and seeing the universe in a handful of sand. Contact traces the journey between those two visual epiphanies. Based on Carl Sagan's novel, Contact is exceptionally thoughtful and provocative for a big-budget Hollywood science fiction picture, with elements that recall everything from 2001 to The Right Stuff. Foster's solid performance (and some really incredible alien hardware) keep viewers interested, even when the story skips and meanders, or when the halo around the golden locks of rising-star-of-a-different-kind Matthew McConaughey (as the pure-Hollywood-hokum love interest) reaches Milky Way-level wattage. Ambitious, ambiguous, pretentious, unpredictable—Contact is all of these things and more. Much of it remains open to speculation and interpretation, but whatever conclusions one eventually draws, Contact deserves recognition as a rare piece of big-budget studio filmmaking on a personal scale. —Jim Emerson
Back to the Future - The Complete Trilogy
Robert Zemeckis Filmmaker Robert Zemeckis topped his breakaway hit Romancing the Stone with Back to the Future, a joyous comedy with a dazzling hook: what would it be like to meet your parents in their youth? Billed as a special-effects comedy, the imaginative film (the top box-office smash of 1985) has staying power because of the heart behind Zemeckis and Bob Gale's script. High schooler Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox, during the height of his TV success) is catapulted back to the '50s where he sees his parents in their teens, and accidentally changes the history of how Mom and Dad met. Filled with the humorous ideology of the '50s, filtered through the knowledge of the '80s (actor Ronald Reagan is president, ha!), the film comes off as a Twilight Zone episode written by Preston Sturges. Filled with memorable effects and two wonderfully off-key, perfectly cast performances: Christopher Lloyd as the crazy scientist who builds the time machine (a DeLorean luxury car) and Crispin Glover as Marty's geeky dad. —Doug Thomas

Critics and audiences didn't seem too happy with Back to the Future, Part II, the inventive, perhaps too clever sequel. Director Zemeckis and cast bent over backwards to add layers of time-travel complication, and while it surely exercises the brain it isn't necessarily funny in the same way that its predecessor was. It's well worth a visit, though, just to appreciate the imagination that went into it, particularly in a finale that has Marty watching his own actions from the first film. —Tom Keogh

Shot back-to-back with the second chapter in the trilogy, Back to the Future, Part III is less hectic than that film and has the same sweet spirit of the first, albeit in a whole new setting. This time, Marty ends up in the Old West of 1885, trying to prevent the death of mad scientist Christopher Lloyd at the hands of gunman Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson, who had a recurring role as the bully Biff). Director Zemeckis successfully blends exciting special effects with the traditions of a Western and comes up with something original and fun. —Tom Keogh
The Naked Gun - From the Files of Police Squad!
David Zucker David Zucker—of the Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker creative troika behind Airplane! and television's Police Squad!—directed this 1988 feature film based on the latter show. Leslie Nielsen returns to his old TV role of Lt. Frank Drebin, the deadpan idiot with a detective's badge. The reinvention of the failed series as a theatrical feature seems to have inspired everyone involved to make a pretty funny movie, and the jokes gather a momentum that lasts until the final act. Ricardo Montalban is a perfect foil as a villain whose aquarium is being invaded by Drebin during routine questioning, and George Kennedy is delightful in a self-parodying part as an earnest but obtuse lawman. There's a hilarious bit when Drebin—wearing a live police wire while going to the bathroom—can be overheard over the loudspeakers at a speech given by a flustered mayor (Nancy Marchand). Yes, that's O.J. Simpson as a detective who ends up on the wrong side of numerous Drebin blunders. —Tom Keogh
Airplane!
David Zucker, Jerry Zucker The quintessential movie spoof that spawned an entire genre of parody films, the original Airplane! still holds up as one of the brightest comedic gems of the '80s, not to mention of cinema itself (it ranked in the top 5 of Entertainment Weekly's list of the 100 funniest movies ever made). The humor may be low and obvious at times, but the jokes keep coming at a rapid-fire clip and its targets—primarily the lesser lights of '70s cinema, from disco films to star-studded disaster epics—are more than worthy for send-up. If you've seen even one of the overblown Airport movies then you know the plot: the crew of a filled-to-capacity jetliner is wiped out and it's up to a plucky stewardess and a shell-shocked fighter pilot to land the plane. Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty are the heroes who have a history that includes a meet-cute à la Saturday Night Fever, a surf scene right out of From Here to Eternity, a Peace Corps trip to Africa to teach the natives the benefits of Tupperware and basketball, a war-ravaged recovery room with a G.I. who thinks he's Ethel Merman (a hilarious cameo)—and those are just the flashbacks! The jokes gleefully skirt the boundaries of bad taste (pilot Peter Graves to a juvenile cockpit visitor: "Joey, have you ever seen a grown man naked?"), with the high (low?) point being Hagerty's intimate involvement with the blow-up automatic pilot doll, but they'll have you rolling on the floor. The film launched the careers of collaborators Jim Abrahams (Big Business), David Zucker (Ruthless People), and Jerry Zucker (Ghost), as well as revitalized such B-movie actors as Lloyd Bridges, Peter Graves, Robert Stack, and Leslie Nielsen, who built a second career on films like this. A vital part of any video collection. —Mark Englehart