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Spider-Man 2

Columbia TriStar
Movie A-
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

Director Sam Raimi made the ultimate comic-book movie with this strong sequel to his equally strong first film on the subject of Spidey. As Peter Parker, Tobey Maguire is pure joy, an unlikely mixture of nerd and legitimate superhero. I enjoyed the film the first time through, and liked it even more upon revisiting it. As Doc Ock, Alfred Molina is an interesting Jekyll and Hyde trying to cope with a scientific experiment gone horribly awry. The romance subplot with Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) is reminiscent of Superman 2, in which Superman got it on with Lois Lane. The difference here is that Peter and MJ don't do it, and Spidey can't erase her brain with convenient super-kisses. This film boasts what are easily the year's best action sequences, especially when Ock and Spidey fight it out on the side of a building and a moving train. The humor is mostly successful, and includes a great joke involving Maguire's well-publicized back trouble. A bit hokey in places, but the small flaws are easily forgivable. It definitely leaves one anxious for the next chapter.

Special Features: Tobey Maguire sits down with director Sam Raimi for a commentary worthy of the film. After all the press and back problems that almost led to Maguire being replaced by Jake Gyllenhaal in this movie, it's cool to hear how enthused and proud Maguire actually is about his role as Spider-Man; it's clearly something he enjoys and takes very seriously. It's also fun to find that he has an endearing donkey laugh, which he employs often during the commentary, a sure sign that he and Raimi get along despite all the rumors. As for the disc overall, the two-DVD set is an improvement over the original's treatment, with decent documentaries, the aforementioned Maguire commentary and "Spidey Sense," which, when activated, allows you to view notes on the production while watching the movie.

Home Movies: Season One

Shout Factory
Show B+
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 8.5 (out of 10)

I had no idea what this show was until I popped the DVD into my player, drank a beer and took it on. The show went through various incarnations, and this first season marked its one-year run on the UPN, where animators utilized "squigglevision," the same kind of animation utilized for Dr. Katz. The show follows the travails of Brendon (voice of co-creator Brendon Small), who makes home movies with epic intentions on his mini camcorder. My favorite episode is Brendon Gets Rabies, in which Small has major difficulties watching the neighbor's cat. Those who require great drawings with their animation might have trouble with the primitive presentation, but sometimes, the cheap look works.

Special Features: There are commentary tracks and interviews with the creators, but the real reason to get this three-disc set is for the short films by Brendon Small. The best of these is The Thor Von Clemson Advanced Fast Hand Finger Wizard Master Class, a guitar lesson during which you will learn nothing.

24: Season Three

Fox Video
Show A-
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

To me, this is the best hour-long weekly TV drama to hit the screens since Twin Peaks. But given my hectic lifestyle and unprecedented laziness in the moments when I remain uncommitted, watching week after week is impossible. That's why I'm grateful to Fox Video for putting this stuff on DVD rapidly and with quality presentation. In this third season, Jack Bauer (the always-absorbing Kiefer Sutherland) is facing a chemical virus threat that could bring real bad times to Los Angeles. He must do this while dealing with an unfortunate carryover from the drug-lord subplot of season two (Jack's got real problems). As with Twin Peaks, the storyline carries over nicely from episode to episode, with each show standing strongly on its own. Season four starts in January, so get this one in your player and digest it before the fun begins again. Getting to see the episodes one after the other without pause is both a blessing and a curse. You could easily burn up five hours of your day on this one, because it's very hard to walk away.

Special Features: Like recent Seinfeld and Arrested Development releases, this collection isn't just about throwing some TV shows on disc and rushing them out to there for the public. This is a seven-disc set containing all 24 episodes and a disc dedicated to special features. The extra disc gathers 45 deleted scenes with optional commentary and various interesting features on the show and bioterrorism. Of major interest is a season four preview and promo that hints at things to come. There are commentaries on select episodes, with most of the season's main participants getting a chance to wax poetic about the show.

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