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The Frighteners: Unrated Director's Cut

Universal Studios Home Video
Movie B-
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)

In 1996, before Director Peter Jackson got his CGI act together with The Lord of the Rings trilogy, he made this super-kinetic, sloppy movie about a psychic investigator (Michael J. Fox) who confronts a serial-killer ghost (Jake Busey). The film was ahead of its time, one of the first to attempt a full slate of computer effects to propel the plot.

The result is pretty messy, but one shouldn't fault Jackson for trying. Had he waited another couple of years to put this to screen, he might've had something truly groundbreaking. Instead, he had a failed project on his hands, which earned him the cancellation of his King Kong remake. (Universal claims they didn't want to compete with Godzilla, but bad box office from this film didn't help.)

Of course, Jackson went on to direct Rings after this movie. He regained the faith of Universal, and now King Kong comes out Dec. 14. A look back at this movie shows that it was better than the critical drubbing it took at the time. Many of the scare effects, including a mighty creepy Grim Reaper, work just fine. Some ghost effects are too cartoony, but still an important step in the progression of CGI effects.

Special Features: This is Jackson's director's cut, featuring about 14 minutes of footage returned to the film. Jackson points out the new scenes in his commentary, one in which he doesn't hesitate to put down certain aspects of the film. The DVD also features a nearly four-hour documentary on the making of the film. That's bliss for Jackson fans, but probably a bit much for those who thought the film sucked.


U2: Vertigo 2005: Live From Chicago (Deluxe Edition)

Interscope Records
Show B-
Special Features D+
DVD Geek Factor 5 (out of 10)

The best tour U2 tour I have seen was for The Joshua Tree. That tour caught them as their stardom was soaring through the roof, yet the band was still just four guys playing great music.

A U2 show now is a megaproduction of lights and video, with the music a nice complement to the stuff that's pleasing the eye. This isn't so much a complaint, because Bono can still sing, and the music is still strong. Still, sometimes, the shows seem a bit overkill.

This disc catches the band on a couple of nights in Chicago. To be honest, the night of this tour I caught in San Jose sounded better than the performances captured on this disc. Bono seems a bit tired, and his voice doesn't soar to the heights that can be achieved when he's full-throated.

The DVD does manage to capture the spirit of the tour, which was to give the concertgoer as much audio-visual pleasure as possible. Old, almost-forgotten classics like "Out of Control" mix nicely with new hits like "Vertigo," and it's cool to see the old show closer "40" dusted off for posterity.

U2 has changed a lot, but they still put on a great show. Yes, it would be nice to catch them playing in an intimate pub someday, but they are masters of the arena show, and they remain a solid concert-going experience.

Oh, and the concert T-shirts sold on this tour sucked. I bought the one with a big red V on it, and it's like an arrow pointing to your crotch.

Special Features: A lame documentary about attending the show and trying to get one of those special floor tickets that puts you inside the ellipsis (that's the track Bono runs around during the course of the show). When I attended, I got skunked and had to stand up against a truly scary female dancer. She gave me nightmares.


Airplane: "Don't Call Me Shirley" Edition

Paramount Home Video
Movie A
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

Twenty-five years later, this remains one of the funniest films ever made. This spoof of airplane disaster films was dead on in its lampooning of the silly genre, as well as skewering such phenomena as disco, sports legends and model-glue huffing.

This film had balls. It threw everything against the wall to see what stuck, and most of the humor, somewhere in the neighborhood of 92 percent, works. Leslie Nielsen has never been funnier than his deadpan doc who lounges around with his stethoscope on. The lascivious inflatable copilot who gets a blow job, Lloyd Bridges restarting many bad habits, and "Leon getting larger!" will always be funny. Even Robert Hays managed to be hilarious in this thing.

As far as spoofs go, this remains the classic best. Countless directors have tried to copy its success, which has mostly returned lame movies like Loaded Weapon and Scary Movie. Current hitmakers like the Farrelly Brothers owe their careers to the Zucker brothers.

Special Features: The writers and directors reconvene to admire and laugh at their film in a decent commentary. It's fun to hear them talk about how Peter Graves (who plays the perverted pilot) thought they were crazy for casting him because he's "not funny." Little did he know.

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