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Da Ali G Show: Da Compleet First Seazon

HBO Video
Show A
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's alter ego, Ali G, is a hip-hop journalist who manages to procure interviews with political figures such as James Baker and Newt Gingrich, with those political figures somehow not knowing the dimwitted Ali G is an act. Seeing the facial expressions on Gingrich's face when Ali G asks him very direct sexual questions is enough of a reason to buy this DVD. In addition to the Ali G character, Cohen plays "Kazakhstan's premier reporter," Borat, who tells a dating agency that he wants a woman who is "tight like a man's anus," and Bruno, a fashion reporter who crashes shows and walks the catwalks with supermodels. This stands alongside Chappelle's Show as one of TV's best comedy programs. It should be noted that the show is quite profane, so don't watch it on one of those little portable DVD things while attending church.

Special Features: Cohen and series producer Dan Mazer provide commentary on episode one, and there's some unseen footage featuring Borat interviewing the rich. Ali G pitched a crappy movie called Spyz in Hollywood, and the disc has the complete, unedited film, which includes more than a few hardcore sex scenes.

Goodfellas: Two Disc Special Edition

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

One of the harder tasks of movie appreciation is picking the best Martin Scorsese movie. Depending on my mood, I'll say Taxi Driver or Goodfellas. Both represent the man at his artistic best, but in many ways, Goodfellas stands as Scorsese's grandest achievement. This is when the mob movie lost all of its glamour and became something very real and very ugly. The Sopranos wouldn't be around today if Scorsese hadn't made Goodfellas the way he did. Of course, Scorsese got shined by Oscar for this one (Costner got that year's director Oscar for Dances With Wolves, one of the all-time bullshit Academy Award moments). It's based on the real-life exploits of Henry Hill (played by Ray Liotta), a lifelong gangster who wound up in a witness protection program after helping to put many mafia kingpins behind bars. The film is a marvel of editing and cinematography, and I can't think of a time when a director used popular music this effectively (his use of Layla over a montage of murdered mafia cronies is remarkable). Joe Pesci took home the award for Best Supporting Actor in what amounted to his career highpoint. Scorsese has yet to win a directing Oscar, and the fact that he got ignored for this one was a crime.

Special Features: Scorsese gets together with his creative crew and some of the actors, including Liotta and Paul Sorvino, for a terrific commentary. For most discs, that would be the prime feature, but this one actually has a commentary from the real Henry Hill, who reminisces about all the real-life events that inspired moments in the film. It's a creepy thing to hear him say, "Oh, I remember that!" when someone gets shot to death in a car trunk. Taking it to even higher levels are excellent documentaries on the making of the movie, and a feature in which filmmakers comment on the influence of Goodfellas on modern film.

Duel: Collector's Edition

Movie B
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

Steven Spielberg's first movie was actually a made-for-television affair. He had been cutting his teeth on episodes of Night Gallery and Columbo when the opportunity came up to direct a 1971 ABC TV movie about one nasty case of road rage. Dennis Weaver plays a businessman who takes it upon himself to pass the wrong truck on the highway. The truck driver marks him for death, and a 90-minute chase ensues. (The film was expanded to 90 minutes for an overseas theatrical release; that is the edition on this DVD.) For fans of Spielberg, it's a must-see, because many of his techniques are on display in their early stages. The roadway mayhem is filmed to taut effect, and Spielberg allows Weaver to take his character to wonderfully goofy extremes. Spielberg took his sweet time before actually showing his monster in Jaws (1975). In Duel, the psycho's face is never truly shown at all, although there is a diner scene in which one of the patrons is apparently the maniac. Horror fans know that Spielberg's car-chase techniques have been ripped off over the years, most notably in Jeepers Creepers and Joyride. This film stands as documented proof that Spielberg was trailblazing with his very first efforts.

Special Features: No commentaries, but Spielberg does sit down for an extended interview that covers his views on the film, as well as his early television work. If you've never seen the film, don't watch the interview before the movie, because Spielberg gives plenty away.

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