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Schindler's List

Movie Grade A
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 9 (out of 10)

One of the more anticipated DVD releases comes to fruition 10 years after its theatrical run. Spielberg's Schindler's List will always stand as one of cinema's most powerful and important achievements. Based on the true story of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson), a shady businessman and Nazi Party member who sought to profit off cheap labor during World War II and wound up saving the lives of more than 1,100 Jews. While the Holocaust had been the subject of some movies before, none approached the horror as frankly as Spielberg's film, uncompromising in its unpleasantness and violence. Audiences were introduced to Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth, an actual Nazi commander who would arbitrarily shoot prisoners from his terrace. Images in this film burn themselves into the brain: A one-armed man is shot in the street as he proclaims his worth as a worker; a child descends into a toilet to hide from soldiers. Spielberg directed both Schindler and Jurassic Park in the same year, which makes the success of both films all the more amazing.

Special Features: The two-sided disc isn't packed with features, but it does include a stirring documentary, Voices From the Shoah List. Hosted by Spielberg, it features interviews with actual Schindler survivors, who give eye witness accounts of the events covered in Schindler's List.

Splash: 20th Anniversary Edition

Movie Grade B-
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 3 (out of 10)

Splash actually marked a monumental moment in cinematic history. Until its release in 1984, Disney had specialized in animated films and G-rated live action fare like The Shaggy Dog and The Apple Dumpling Gang. In fact, Disney was so afraid to release a film featuring nudity that Touchstone, a faction of the studio meant for more adult-oriented entertainment, was born. A charming mermaid tale starring the little-known Tom Hanks and virtually unknown Daryl Hannah, it was a huge hit for director Ron Howard and features one of the late John Candy's best film performances. Hanks, coming off the recently canceled TV show Bosom Buddies, was referred to Howard after a guest spot on Happy Days. That week's episode, in which Hanks had a showdown with the Fonz, proved to be one of the more important stepping stones in his amazing career. While some of the film's humor doesn't stand the test of time, Eugene Levy is still very funny as a meddling scientist, and the team of Hanks and Candy--who would later co-star in Volunteers--is likeable. Hannah is an absolute charmer as mermaid Madison, and this film stands as her most enduring screen work.

Special Features: Making a Splash, a behind-the-scenes documentary with the participation of Howard and the film's major stars, is a decent enough watch, but the real reason to get the DVD is the audition tapes. A very young Hanks reads for his part, at one point doing a love scene with Ron Howard in which he proposes. Priceless.

Dawn of the Dead

Anchor Bay
Movie Grade A
Special Features C+
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

While Anchor Bay is allegedly planning a special edition/director's cut of George Romero's zombie classic, this DVD hits the streets to cash in on the big-budget re-make hitting theaters this week. The second--and best--of Romero's horror trilogy has zombies stalking survivors in a shopping mall, and it has never looked or sounded better. It works both as effective horror and scathing social satire (American consumerism takes a hit), achieving an excellence that marks the peak of Romero's career. While Romero's writing and direction are tops, it is the special makeup effects by Tom Savini that rule the day. A scene in which a group of bikers are consumed before our very eyes stands as one of the more gloriously disgusting sequences ever to grace the horror genre. Released here in its "theatrical cut," it doesn't have a rating. Were it to be given one today, it would probably score an NC-17 for intense violence. The MPAA tends to frown upon scenes of people getting their shoulders bitten off or innards yanked out. While Night of the Living Dead was a groundbreaker, Dawn was perhaps more influential for the horror genre. The Evil Dead and 28 Days Later owe a lot to Romero and pals.

Special Features: Last year's release of Day of the Dead was packed with supplements, and a future release of Dawn looks to match that release's greatness. This package is relatively skimpy, but the brand-new commentary by the likes of Romero and Savini is a must-listen for fans. Among secrets revealed: The child zombies that attack one of the film's heroes are Savini's nephews. Romero talks extensively of his intentions for a fourth film, a grand-scale zombie movie that he has high hopes for. Considering the recent cinematic zombie craze. if the Dawn re-make does big dollars, Romero's next could get the green light.

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