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Donnie Darko: The Director's Cut

20th Century Fox
Movie A-
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 7.5 (out of 10)

I liked this strange, strange movie when I originally saw it, and I like director Richard Kelly's new cut even better. Jake Gyllenhaal plays Donnie Darko, psychotic teen or world savior. Haunted by a demented-looking bunny rabbit, Donnie is told that the world will end soon. What follows is about as convoluted a movie as you are ever going to see, but repeated viewings reveal that just about everything in the film makes sense. It is one of the more ingenious films about time travel ever made, a pretty stunning love story and a great puzzler that stands alongside David Lynch greats like Lost Highway and Mulholland Drive. The Director's Cut adds some special effects and signposts that explain the time-travel angle a little better. Those Darko cultists who got everything the first time around might find the new stuff extraneous, but I--being the idiot I am--fully appreciated the help. Gyllenhaal, one of the best young actors going, established himself as a force with this one. He does a fine job looking disturbed and tortured, managing to create a character that is both endearing and frightening.

Special Features: A two-disc set that should please fans. Writer-director Kevin Smith sits down with Kelly for a commentary that isn't so much about the movie as it about the phenomenon surrounding the film. Smith asks a bunch of questions submitted by fans, while Kelly does his best to spell out his intentions for the interested. A documentary about the cult status of the film is a little much, but the Production Diary, with an optional commentary by cinematographer Steven Poster, is fruitful viewing.

Curb Your Enthusiasm: The Complete Third Season

HBO Video
Show B+
Special Features D
DVD Geek Factor 5 (out of 10)

Larry David's twisted little show gets nastier as the day grows long. The generally unscripted shenanigans get more confident and more cruel with each new season. (Things occasionally went a little too far in the most recent season, and I'm wondering how much longer it can go on before David's character actually commits murder.) The third season saw a plotline involving David's investment in a restaurant with the likes of Ted Danson and Michael York, his antagonistic relationship with Danson being a highlight. Marital strife also became more prominent (his wife is played by Cheryl Hines), and Richard Lewis offers his neurotic shtick. Larry's confrontation with a kid in a screening room is priceless, as is the episode in which Larry and Richard attempt to feed a woman Benadryl brownies. By the third season, things don't feel as spontaneous as in the free-form first season, but that makes perfect sense when you get down to it. The cast and creators have pretty much mastered the format to the point where stuff that is improvised feels rehearsed.

Special Features: Just a 60-minute documentary of the cast and directors at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen. That's all.

Heat: Two-Disc Special Edition

Warner Brothers
Movie A
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)

A glance at Robert De Niro's record since 1995's Heat reveals that he's done some good movies (Ronin, Jackie Brown), but Heat was the last masterpiece he took part in. As Neil McCauley, a cunning thief looking to leave his life of crime behind, he's vintage De Niro, as opposed to the strange caricature of himself he's become as of late. While De Niro and Al Pacino both starred in The Godfather Part II, they never shared the screen together, something that finally happened in Heat. The scene in which they sit together in a coffee shop stands as one of the all-time classic moments in modern movie history, two acting titans sharing the screen for the first time. Director Michael Mann has made some beautiful movies, but this could be his best. The screenplay sat around for nearly 20 years before Mann finally directed it. Pacino is at his bombast best in this one, a career highlight that stands alongside his incredible work in Insomnia. If De Niro and Pacino should ever work together again, let's hope it's not in something like The Fockers Go to the Penitentiary or Analyze My Ass. God, I wish De Niro would quit screwing around. Watching this again only reminds me of what a national treasure he is. I want De Niro and Pacino in a Scorsese picture, and I want it now!

Special Features: An impressive two-disc set that piles on the documentaries. True Crime examines the real-life criminals and detectives who inspired the film, while Into the Fire takes a look at the intensive training the actors had to undergo to pull off that massive street shootout. The documentaries appear to have been produced by true lovers of the film. Mann offers a commentary that isn't exactly electrifying, but it offers plenty of surprises about the making of the movie--like how much of the film was based on real events.

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