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Rocky: Two-Disc Special Edition

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

At long last, this one gets the DVD treatment that it deserves. As multiplexes ready themselves for Rocky Balboa, the sixth (I won't say final, because you never know) chapter in the saga, this film gets the royal treatment.

To me, Rocky is just one of those perfect movies released in that beautiful stretch of American cinema from 1975-1977. Jaws, The Bad News Bears, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Taxi Driver and, of course, Star Wars make this my personal favorite three-year period for movies. Stallone managed to create a character so iconic that, yes, he is able to produce a sequel 30 years after the original.

Sure, the franchise went to hell with its fourth and fifth chapters (I still can't believe he climbed a mountain, with no gear, in Rocky IV), but the one that kicked it all off was a Best Picture winner, and it deserved that honor. From its groundbreaking fight scenes and camerawork, to the not-yet-a-caricature performance from Stallone, this remains an all-time gem. My personal favorite Stallone moment comes when he's yelling at Mickey (Burgess Meredith) after his offer to manage his fight career, and he laments about his lousy apartment. ("It's a nice house ... it stinks!) Stallone wrote the script, which was solid, and Bill Conti's score makes the film unforgettable.

The supporting performances help to reinforce the film's classic status. Meredith as Mickey, Carl Weathers as the Ali-like Apollo Creed, Burt Young as skuzzy Paulie and even Talia Shire as shy Adrian are all pitch perfect.

Now, give The Bad News Bears a real DVD treatment. I want a Tanner Boyle commentary track!

Special Features: Yes, Stallone delivers a full-length commentary track all by himself. It's not just him rambling on about random subjects; he provides insight into almost every scene in the film. Getting a commentary track for Rocky from Stallone was second on my all-time "Commentaries I Want!" list. First on that list is Spielberg for Jaws, which will never happen. There are two other commentaries, one with Lou Duva and Bert Sugar, the other with director John G. Avildsen and an assortment of producers and writers. The two-disc set is packed with documentaries, and Stallone lends himself to most of them. This is a thorough, welcomed look at a great film.


The Year Without a Santa Claus

Warner Home Video
Movie C-
Special Features None
DVD Geek Factor 3 (out of 10)

OK, the production values on this made-for-TV remake of the stop-motion animation classic are shit. But John Goodman is damned funny as the grouchy Santa Claus who decides to take a year off after concluding that Christmas has become too commercialized.

I can't totally knock a film that made me giggle as often as this one did, but the giggles usually came courtesy of one guy (Goodman). While Michael McKean does a reasonably good job with Snow Miser (he nails the song), Harvey Fierstein sucks as his enemy, Heat Miser. The man totally overdoes it.

Ethan Suplee and Eddie Griffin are OK as the two elves who venture from the North Pole to save Christmas. The same can't be said for Delta Burke, who is a dud as Mrs. Claus. Chris Kattan has his moments as Sparky, Santa's conniving assistant.

So, if you care to watch this, watch it for Mr. Goodman. He's one of the more unique Santas of recent memory. Too bad the movie isn't half as good as he is.

Special Features: You get nuthin'!


Superman Returns: Two-Disc Special Edition

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

While it didn't necessarily set the box office on fire, Superman's return to the big screen after an absence of almost 20 years was a triumphant one in that it was honorable toward the original film series and its star, Christopher Reeve. Brandon Routh stepped into the title role with much authority, while Director Bryan Singer kept those cool opening credits, the John Williams score and even brought back Marlon Brando (utilizing discarded footage from the original Superman).

The result is a strong film that stands alongside the original as the best in the series. Kevin Spacey is a decent Lex Luthor (although I much prefer Gene Hackman), and Kate Bosworth does Lois Lane justice.

Some subplots involving Superman's kid and Lex Luthor's semi-ridiculous idea for taking over the world can't stop this one from being a winner. Singer is on board for the next one, which will apparently bring back General Zod and his crew. Don't quote me ... the production is in its early stages.

Special Features: Settle in for three hours worth of documentaries and deleted scenes. The deleted scenes deserved to be deleted. (Would Superman really need a shovel to bury his spacecraft? He could flick the ground with his index finger and crack the planet to its core!) There's also a neat little clip on how they were able to bring back Brando using old footage. There's no Singer commentary, but you don't really need one, because he's all over the documentary.

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