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Ju-on: The Grudge

Lions Gate Entertainment
Movie B+
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

If you thought Sarah Michelle Gellar's The Grudge was scary, check out the original Japanese film on which it is based. Director Takashi Shimizu directed both versions, but he had an R rating with the original, and he wasn't afraid to use it. Honest to God, this film has some of the greatest scares I've ever seen in a horror film. Shimizu knows how to terrify, and he's merciless with this one. (I hate that the ghost can follow you into a public bathroom!) Shimizu made a sequel and some television films, and here's to somebody eventually getting those out on DVD. Seriously, I like this film, but I'm a little miffed that I had to watch it again, for I will eventually have to go to sleep, and I don't want the drowned ghost to come and get me.

Special Features: Some deleted scenes, including a scary alternate ending, are provided with director commentary. As for the film itself, producer Sam Raimi and sometime-cohort Scott Spiegel provide a great commentary, with Spiegel often very vocal about how the film freaks him out. It's also rather fun how the two are willing to openly criticize moments in a film they obviously love, rather than simply gushing all over it.

The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection

Movies A
Special Features C+
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

This has been a good year for Marx Brothers fans. Back in May, Warner Brothers released a DVD box set that featured A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races, among others. Now, Universal chimes in with five classic films, including the great Duck Soup, in which Groucho becomes the leader of the fictional Fredonia, and Horse Feathers, their classic take on the educational system. The set also includes earlier works The Coconauts, their film debut based on their Broadway show, and Animal Crackers, considered their first classic and also based on a stage show. Rounding out the package is Monkey Business, in which the brothers get mixed up in some gangster business. The transfers here are excellent, with the films never looking better.

Special Features: The features here are not nearly as spectacular as the ones in the Warner Brothers collection. A bonus disc contains nothing but Today Show interviews with Groucho and Harpo, and neither of them are all that awe-inspiring. However, the packaging is kind of cool--a hardcover book container that nicely harnesses the six discs, with a 40-page booklet for collectors. Some commentaries and documentaries would've been nice.

Shrek 2

Movie B-
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 5 (out of 10)

I know it isn't fashionable to deny love for this film, but I'm not all that crazy about it. It's OK, but not nearly as enchanting as the original, with a lot of the humor falling flat. Still, Puss N' Boots kicks ass, and Shrek transformed into a human is semi-interesting. As for CGI this year, The Incredibles is tops, with Shark Tale at the bottom. The continuing adventures of the green ogre fall somewhere in between.

Special Features: Far Far Away Idol is funnier than anything in the film. Filmed for the DVD, it features some of the characters squaring off in a competition, and you get to vote for the winner. Pinocchio sings Mr. Roboto, and the Three Blind Mice sing I Can See Clearly Now. As for other features, there are two commentaries that are fairly routine, and some behind-the-scenes stuff that fails to engage.

Straw Dogs: Unrated

Movie B
Special Features None
DVD Geek Factor 4 (out of 10)

This one's been getting some big DVD love. Last year, Criterion gave it the full-bore, super DVD treatment, and now Sam Peckinpah's classically violent movie gets a third DVD. This is just another one of the great Dustin Hoffman performances as he plays an American math teacher who makes the mistake of going to England on vacation. There, a group of men attack his wife (Susan George), and townspeople raid his home, causing the Hoffman character to react quite viciously. It was decried as too violent in its day, and while it could be considered rather tame by modern standards, it remains a truly disturbing film. This is an extended, unrated edition, although it didn't look that much different from versions I've seen before. If you are a fan of the film, your best bet is the Criterion treatment. If you've never seen the film, this is an OK place to start.

Special Features: Director Sam Peckinpah comes back from the dead and gets all violent because somebody put footage back into his film without his expressed permission. Just kidding. You must see the Criterion edition if you want supplements.

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