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Red Dawn: Collector's Edition

MGM
Movie D-
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 3 (out of 10)

Some will tell you that the low point of modern American cinema occurred with the Ernest series. Others will say the third Porky's movie represents the absolute low. For me, this piece of trash is a strong candidate.

Some American school kids are enduring a history lecture when soldiers start parachuting into the fields outside their windows. After a series of rebellions and political shifts, America is standing alone, with everybody in the world out to get us. The parachute guys represent the start of World War III. We are being invaded, and the Brat Pack is going to save our collective ass.

A group of rebels--including Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Charlie Sheen and Lea Thompson--take to the mountains, calling themselves Wolverines (after the school football team). They are fortunate in that the invading army consists of the most incompetent soldiers film has ever known. You have to be pretty bad when Jennifer Grey and C. Thomas Howell keep kicking your ass.

The film is fun if you play the old, "What's the worst part of this movie?" game while watching it. For me, it's anytime Howell speaks, followed by the scene with Harry Dean Stanton screaming, "Avenge me!" Or, perhaps, it's the scene where Swayze might have to shoot his best friend, resulting in major Swayze waterworks.

What's my favorite part? Well, that would be when Howell gets into a showdown with a helicopter, screaming "Wolverines!" until he's showered with bullets. It's not that I found this to be a great action scene; I simply felt a great sense of relief knowing that I wouldn't have to watch him anymore after he got a hearty helping of lead. The scene where the brother characters played by Swayze and Sheen die on a bench is also good, because it takes out two of them in one swoop.

The schmaltzy soundtrack, the stupid headwear and the fact that a script didn't seem to exist for this thing contribute to the torture. And yet, I had to wait for the second shipment of DVDs to hit Best Buy, because the first wave sold out in a day.

Apparently lots of people love this thing. Sometimes, I feel alone. So very alone.

Special Features: As much as I hate this movie, some of the features are a lot of fun. Sheen, Howell, Swayze and Thompson participate in a retrospective. (Thompson is still hot; everybody else, not so much.) Swayze and Grey didn't like each other, but they did go on to make Dirty Dancing together. Howell admits that he got so cold that he had to spoon Charlie Sheen, while Sheen tells of a moment where it got so cold during filming that Howell cried.


Hot Fuzz

Rogue Pictures
Movie B+
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

The fellows who brought you Shaun of the Dead follow up with a twisted cop caper that is a decent satire, mystery and horror film, all in one. Simon Pegg plays a gung-ho cop who is banished from his department, because he's too good and making everybody look bad. He winds up in a small town where people are mysteriously dying, and he soon discovers the quiet detail he's been given is actually quite messed up.

Pegg and comedic partner Nick Frost are one of the best duos working in movies today. We need two movies a year from these guys.

Special Features: Outtakes that are funny, deleted scenes and The Fuzzball Rally: U.S. Tour Piece (a documentary covering Pegg and director Edgar Wright's press tour) are enough to make fans happy. There is a full feature commentary from Pegg and Wright, even though the DVD box doesn't note it.


300: Two-Disc Special Edition

Warner Home Video
Movie B
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

Spartan men with killer abs take a stand in this visually amazing, somewhat shallow big-budget extravaganza that looks neat on my television screen. Director Zack Snyder's big-screen adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel might not be big on brains, but it is a tremendous achievement in special effects.

Gerard Butler has arrived as the next great action hero as King Leonidas, leader of the Spartans in a gory stand against the Persian army. The battle sequences are fantastically gory, and if you've managed to read Miller's text, the film is quite faithful to the author's vision. Snyder parlayed his success with this film into his next project, another graphic-novel adaptation: Next year or 2009 will finally see the release of Watchmen, perhaps the greatest graphic novel ever produced.

Special Features: They include some deleted scenes with the hunchback guy--scenes that deserved the ax. (He overacts horribly, rendering the moments unintentionally funny.) While there are some great documentaries on the filmmaking, there are also a couple of throwaways that didn't need to be included in the package. Snyder does provide an engaging commentary.

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