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The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Extended Edition

New Line
Movie A+
Special Features A+
DVD Geek Factor 10 (out of 10)

Winning all those Oscars hasn't stopped Peter Jackson from doing a little work on his final Lord of the Rings film. There are more than 50 minutes of new stuff on this extended edition, all of it worth seeing. Saruman (Christopher Lee) meets his grisly demise in a restored scene that was surprisingly cut from the theatrical release (much to Lee's chagrin, apparently). Welcomed footage that fleshes out characters like Pippin the Hobbit and Eowyn, the almost-love of Aragorn, makes it even more worthwhile. Director Peter Jackson now stands alongside the likes of Lucas and Spielberg as the greatest purveyors of cinematic fantasy ever to take on the task, and he is clearly the winner on the DVD front. Lucas' Star Wars Trilogy DVD release is impressive, but not awe-inspiring, while Spielberg has managed some good if not incredible home video releases over the years. Nobody has produced behind-the-scenes info of such high entertainment as Jackson's works. If Jackson himself should try to surpass these releases in the future, he's got his work cut out for him. Still, I'm expecting great things with his re-make of King Kong, and hope that the same model for DVD is used on all his future projects.

Special Features:Take a week off from work for this stuff, because its mind bogglingly awesome and enormous. In fact, Billy Boyd, in the introduction to the final disc of documentaries, implores you to get out of the house occasionally, because watching all of this stuff is quite time-consuming. The film contains four commentaries, the best being from Jackson himself and the cast. Among the interesting trivia revelations: J.R.R. Tolkien's actual great grandson makes a short cameo early in the film. The Appendices, making-of-the-movie documentaries that have blessed all the Rings extended editions, come to a nice conclusion. It's interesting to learn that the scene where Samwise (Sean Astin) is dismissed by Frodo was not filmed with the two actors working together. Each half of the conversation was actually filmed one year apart from each other. Jackson made sure to get behind-the-scenes footage of the main performers' final days of work, and the tears that usually ensued. By the time interviewee Viggo Mortensen says his final goodbye to the fans in the closing moments of the last documentary, it's quite heartwarming. You can secure this thing for less than $30, and that's one of the best values in the DVD market today.

Shaun of the Dead

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

One of the year's best films gets to DVD just in time for Christmas gift-giving, so if you have a particularly sick and twisted special someone, this is the perfect stocking stuffer. Simon Pegg and Nick Frost provide the year's best screen duo as Shaun and Ed, two pub crawlers who find themselves battling an onslaught of London zombies. While the humor is top-notch, this is very much a zombie experience, complete with limb-ripping gore and decent scares. Tributes to George Romero (Night of the Living Dead) can be spotted throughout, and the best of these would have to be the polka version of the Muzak from Dawn of the Dead. It's beautifully appropriate that the zombie-bashing weapon of choice is a cricket bat, and one of the zombie bite victims feels that they will overcome the injury because it was "run under the tap." This film almost qualifies as a distant cousin of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, a terrific example of British humor infiltrating an entirely credible genre film.

Special Features: Pegg, Frost and others sit down for nice, witty commentaries on the film, and there's a pile of deleted and extended scenes to dig through. Some funny outtakes include Pegg and a cast member doing a scene run-through as John Lennon and Paul McCartney.

Meet the Parents: Bonus Edition

Universal Studios
Movie B+
Special Features C
DVD Geek Factor 1 (if you have the previous edition) (out of 10)

With the release of Meet the Fockers comes the obvious need to repackage Meet the Parents for a quick buck. The movie, even though it's been aired a billion times since TV got hold of it, will always be good. Seeing Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro together is pure fun, and the upcoming sequel looks worthwhile. But do we really need another DVD?

Special Features: The answer to the above is "No, not really." Some brand new outtakes are nothing to get excited about, and the techno track that plays underneath them is quite distracting. The special features are brought to you by Earthlink, so that's good to know. This disc isn't bad, but you are safe with your older version. The original DVD release had a Stiller/De Niro commentary, which can't be found on this one.

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