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The Hills Have Eyes (Unrated Edition)

20th Century Fox
Movie B+
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)

I didn't see too much different in the unrated version of this remake of Wes Craven's 1977 film. There's a little more carnage, but this one was pretty sick to start, so new digits getting cut off or a couple more seconds of somebody's head getting blown off aren't altogether noticeable.

A stupid family takes an ill-advised shortcut on a cross-country trip and winds up stranded in the desert, hunted by cannibalistic mutants. The mutants are the result of radioactivity from nuclear testing, second-generation monsters that will eat your dog at the drop of a hat. The body count stacks up, but a band of survivors gathers their wits and starts to kick some unholy mutant ass.

Director Alexandre Aja does a decent job of making a down-and-dirty horror film with no concern for the niceties that would get him that commercially viable PG-13 rating. This is an old-school splatter film, one that's not for the squeamish.

When the film starts, go ahead and try to pick the characters who will survive or die in the picture. I guarantee that you will guess wrong.

Special Features: There's a director's commentary, another featuring Wes Craven that is pretty cool, and some decent documentary stuff. It all results in a good disc.

Dumbo: Big Top Edition

Walt Disney Video
Movie B
Special Features C
DVD Geek Factor 5.5 (out of 10)

While watching this film in the comfort of my own home the other night, I came to a realization: I hadn't seen this since my father took me to the movies when I was something like 10 years old. I had a flashback during the opening stork sequence, recalling the stinky one-screen theater I watched it in, a double feature with something like The Apple Dumpling Gang or Pete's Dragon.

I remember the film kind of pissed me off. I was going through a lot of peer pressure at the time, and I was sort of an outcast at school. When Dumbo's big-assed ears flopped out, and everybody gave him shit for it, I empathized. Not only did I have a big head that didn't suit my body; I also had big-assed ears. (My body has since caught up to my fat head). The mouse in the red uniform was my hero for thinking the elephant freak was cute and normal.

Watching it as an adult, well, it's just so darn cute isn't it? It's not my favorite of the old Disney cartoons (I love Snow White) but definitely one of those timeless classics. It's good to show the kids, too, because it'll kick off that whole "Do storks really bring the babies?" conversation, opening the door to many uncomfortable topics with your children.

The animation in this one was pretty solid. I like the rain storm when the elephants have to help the faceless circus workers raise the tents, and the big parade that follows afterwards, where onlookers laugh at Dumbo as he trips on his ears and falls in the mud. The ending is abrupt, and at just more than an hour, Dumbo is the shortest of the Disney feature-length animated movies.

What really disturbed me as a child was the whole pink-elephants-on-parade number. That was some trippy stuff for a kid to be seeing at a matinee. Not to mention it's pretty inappropriate to depict a baby elephant hallucinating after the accidental consumption of alcohol.

Special Features: A rather lackluster disc. An animation historian delivers a drab commentary, often reading off notes rather than just talking. A sickening music video of Jim Brickman and Kassie DePaiva singing "Baby Mine" is hard to endure. The DVD does contain a couple of classic short films, so that's of interest.

The Matador

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

Pierce Brosnan delivers what is perhaps his best performance yet as a hit man who befriends businessman Danny (Greg Kinnear) while in Mexico. Brosnan is both comical and scary as Julian Noble, a man who has lost faith in his profession and just needs somebody to love. Kinnear is his equal as a man trying to get his life together after a family tragedy.

The film is one of the better "buddy comedies" of recent memory, a fresh twist on a tired genre. The final assassination sequence is hilarious, a great opportunity for the actors to show off their twisted sides. The great Hope Davis co-stars as Danny's wife, and she's her usual excellent self.

The film had a short theatrical run. Like last year's Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, it's an unseen gem that deserves a look.

Special Features: A couple of commentaries, one from the director and another from Kinnear and Brosnan, are worth a listen if you like the movie. There are also a couple of deleted scenes and a featurette. I must say, the cover art for this one is terrible. It makes the movie look like some sort of cheesy, straight-to-video action thriller. It's much more than that.