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Wallace & Gromit: 2 DVD Cracking Collector's Set

Dreamworks
Movie B+
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)

Wallace the cheese lover and his trusty dog, Gromit, share their first feature-length animated adventure together in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, from the makers of Chicken Run. The two pals run a pest-control business (aptly named Anti-Pesto), and they scurry about their town trying to rid it of vegetable-eating rabbits (in a humane way, of course). When a gigantic Were-Rabbit starts creating mass destruction, their pest-control capabilities are put to the test.

Directors Nick Park and Steve Box have put together a wonderful universe in this deservedly Oscar-nominated film (much of that universe, regrettably, was destroyed in a fire the day the film was released). The film is always funny and a wonder to behold. Wallace & Gromit are likely the best stop-motion-animation creature creations since the original King Kong.

Special Features: The Were-Rabbit disc features plenty of behind-the-scenes fun, including talks with the creators, vocal stars (Ralph Fiennes and Helena Bonham Carter) and factory tours. There's a tutorial on how to make plasticine bunnies, and a bizarre short film called Stagefright. The Cracking Collection comes bundled with a second disc that features Wallace and Gromit short films.


All the President's Men: Two-Disc Special Edition

Warner Home Video
Movie A-
Special Features A
DVD Geek Factor 9 (out of 10)

Good god, this movie is 30 years old. After the recent revelation of Deep Throat being former FBI man Mark Felt (for nearly three decades, Deep Throat was Hal Holbrook!), seeing this film now is a remarkable experience.

Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman play Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, two hungry guys who saw the seeds of a story and eventually caused a president to lose his job. Both actors were at the height of their popularities with this film, and the way they play off each other is phenomenal. The two memorized each other's lines so that they could interrupt each other mid-sentence.

The movie is more of a depiction of journalistic tenacity, and less about the intricacies of the Watergate scandal. There hasn't been a better movie on newspaper reporting made, and looking back, it's clear that this moment in history changed the face of reporting forever.

Special Features: This will go down as one of the year's better discs. Redford and Hoffman participate in new documentaries, earnestly sharing intimate details on how they managed to make the movie. Redford provides a full-length commentary, where he enhances the experience of the film rather than saying crap like "Oh that's a great shot!" or "Dustin's hair looks funny in this scene." There's also a segment on Mark Felt, and an archive appearance of the late Jason Robards (who played Ben Bradlee in the film) on the Dinah show.


Midnight Cowboy: Collector's Edition

MGM
Movie A
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 7.5 (out of 10)

The only X-rated film to ever win a Best Picture Oscar (it has since been downgraded to an R). This is the film that established Dustin Hoffman as an acting icon with his heart-wrenching performance as street pimp Ratso Rizzo. Where others would have turned Ratso into a caricature, Hoffman manages something realistic and emotionally devastating. His career went through the roof after the film.

The same can be said for then-little-known actor Jon Voight, who catapulted to fame as Joe Buck, the earnest and sad Southerner looking to make it as a cowboy gigolo in Manhattan. While Joe Buck, like Rizzo, could've been just a joke to an actor of lesser capability, Voight makes him something special. Just watch as Joe tries his best to carry on friendly conversations with bus patrons on the way to New York. His struggles to be recognized and liked are heartbreaking.

This film still contains some of my all-time-favorite screen moments. I love when Buck and Ratso jam to the orange-juice song in their freezing apartment, only to pawn their radio moments later. The Andy Warhol-inspired party where Ratso tries to steal the free salami remains priceless, as does Buck's risqué romp with Shirley (Brenda Vaccaro) afterwards. The music and presentation remain timeless.

It's a little discouraging to see '70s icons like Hoffman and De Niro wallowing in dreck like Meet the Fockers, and Voight playing a ghost in crap like Tomb Raider. Some director needs to get these guys together for a project worthy of their talent, a film with actual depth. If I see any of these guys mugging at the movies in the next few years, I'm going to get depressed.

Special Features: This is a two-disc set; the extras are good, but they probably could've fit on one disc. There are some relatively short but worthwhile documentaries on the films, with the welcomed participation of Voight and Hoffman. Hoffman calls the film one of the greatest experiences of his career, and Voight remembers the extremes he had to go to in order to get the part (his screen test actually makes it into the features). Producer Jerome Hellman provides full-length commentary.

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