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Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (Extreme Unrated)

New Line
Movie A-
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 8; 10 if you're "cool" (out of 10)

This is one of last year's great, underappreciated gems. Two young men (John Cho as Harold and Kal Penn as Kumar) smoke a lot of pot and decide that White Castle hamburgers would be the perfect stoner feast. They then set out on a trek to Cherry Hill, N.J., where they will attain bellybombers at any cost. Director Danny Leiner knows his way around a decent fart joke, so much so that he goes for all-out diarrhea with hilarious success. Cho and Penn make for a good team, a sort of Hope and Crosby for the drug world. Highlights include the wedding of Kumar to a big bag of weed, getting a cheetah stoned and an encounter with a boil-covered Jesus freak. In what could be last year's best cameo, Neil Patrick Harris (yes, Doogie Howser) shows up "tripping balls" on Ecstasy, stealing their car and going for strippers. If you are looking for intellectual fare, you might want to steer clear of this one. The Extreme Unrated version contains more nudity, so there you go.

Special Features: Penn and Cho sit down with the director for a relatively lackluster commentary. "The Art of the Fart" winds up being a cute little look into the creation of explosive diarrhea sounds. A laid-back interview in the back of a car with the two stars is OK.


Garden State

Fox Video
Movie B-
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 4 (out of 10)

Writer-director Zach Braff of TV's Scrubs makes a pleasant enough debut with this quirky movie that was perhaps a little overrated. Braff plays a TV actor who decides to stop taking his medication and start living life with a clear head. While visiting his home state of New Jersey after his mother passes away, he takes up with an old school buddy (the great Peter Sarsgaard) and a sweet local girl (Natalie Portman) who stages elaborate funerals for pets. The acting is superb all around, and Braff has an impressive filmmaker's eye. I'm just not overly crazy about the script, which descends into major goopy territory. Braff has a shot at being a substantial director; perhaps he should get himself a co-writer next time.

Special Features: This film doesn't really warrant two commentaries, but it has them anyway. The better of the two is Braff sitting down with Portman for a rather cute look at the movie. The "making-of" featurette is OK, but the blooper reel is a waste of time.


The Village

Touchstone
Movie D-
Special Features C+
DVD Geek Factor 2 (out of 10)

I detest this movie. Writer-director M. Night Shyamalan won me over with Signs, a genuinely scary, slightly goofy and beautiful-looking alien movie that had me believing in his abilities. Then this happened, a strange-assed period piece in which the performers talk in a way that damn near killed me upon listening to it. Every line is delivered with some sort of pilgrim-speak spin that's supposed to be unique and clever, but is just irritating to the core. The plot has some puritan types living in a secluded village that is surrounded by monsters, and you can bet on the stock Shyamalan twist ending. This time, the twist is a predictable dud that renders the film worthless.

Special Features: The disc offers a behind-the-scenes look at how such a suck-ass film was constructed. Deleted scenes offer little, and there is no commentary from Shyamalan, which suited me just fine.


The Simpsons: The Complete Fifth Season

Fox Video
Show A
Special Features A
DVD Geek Factor 9 (out of 10)

Season Five contained one of my favorites, "Bart Gets an Elephant," in which Bart wins a radio contest and picks "a stupid prize" instead of $10,000. It turns out that the prize is a full-grown African elephant dubbed Stampy, who proceeds to destroy the neighborhood, eat all of the local bar's peanuts and save Homer from the dreaded Springfield tar pits. I love it for the animation of the elephant, a forever-pissed-looking animal that repeatedly puts Bart in his mouth. Season Five also featured the 100th episode and a great ode to the Twilight Zone during its annual Halloween special. I would be very content to see this series make it to 30-seasons plus. It's a national treasure.

Special Features: The best features here are the storyboard-to-completed-episode comparisons, which are always fascinating to watch. Creator Matt Groening and friends offer commentaries on every episode, and they are usually worth listening to. The deleted scenes are precious. Some of them (including one in which Scratchy the Cat commits suicide) were seemingly cut because they were too cruel, not because they were sub par. I must give props to the menus on each of the four discs; created especially for the collection, they feature quick in-jokes that series fans will appreciate.

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