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Frank Zappa: The Dub Room Special!

Red Distribution, Inc.
Show B+
Special Features C-
DVD Geek Factor 8 for Zappa fans (out of 10)

Until now, this legendary (among Zappa fans) "extremely cheap" show was only available on VHS and Beta. Zappa commandeered a video control room and supposedly edited this one "on the fly." He was told this sort of thing wouldn't be possible, but he did it for kicks. This results in a rather slapdash program, with raw comedic interludes often involving nose-picking and FZ interviewing employees at Compact Video (where the show commenced).

Bruce Bickford, who provided sick-assed clay animation for Baby Snakes, returns with some interesting bits, including a moment where a clay Zappa eye extends from its socket. The show culls music from two Zappa concerts, one in 1974 (featuring "Inca Roads" and "Cosmik Debris") and the other from his annual New York Halloween show in 1981 (featuring "EZ Meat" and "Flakes"). Both concerts will be available in their entireties on future DVDs.

Special Features: Not much, but there is a short documentary on "Valley Girl," Zappa's sole hit song featuring daughter Moon Unit.

Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology (1989-1997)

Warner Home Video
Movies See review
Special Features A
DVD Geek Factor 9 for the Burton films, 3 for Schumacher's crap (out of 10)

To coincide with the release of Batman Begins to DVD, Warner Bros. is offering re-issues of the four subsequent Batman movies as stand-alone purchases or part of a boxed set.

When the first Batman hit screens in 1989, director Tim Burton managed to remind the world of how great a comic-book movie could be. The original Superman (1978) held the honor of best superhero flick, and while Burton's Batman didn't necessarily better that movie, it got the right to stand alongside it as a genre great.

Armed with both sure-thing casting (Jack Nicholson as the Joker) and major-risk-taking casting (comic actor Michael Keaton as The Bat), the film was a humongous blockbuster. Burton used Frank Miller's graphic novel series, The Dark Night Returns, as a model, and the result treated the brooding hero's story with the respect it deserved.

Burton and Keaton returned for the next installment, Batman Returns, which went down a notch in quality but was still good stuff. The same can't be said for Joel Schumacher's slandering of the franchise with the sloppy Batman Forever and the abysmal Batman and Robin. Batman (A-), Batman Returns (B+), Batman Forever (C-), Batman and Robin (F-).

Special Features: None of the films had been given decent DVD coverage before, and this new package is exemplary. Tons of documentaries on the making of the films pepper each disc, and all of the directors re-examine their films on commentaries. While it's not worth watching the Schumacher films again, the documentaries are worthy of your time.

Land of the Dead: Unrated Director's Cut

Universal Studios Home Video
Movie B
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 8 for Romero fans (out of 10)

This one plays a little better on the small screen. Writer-director George Romero returns to the zombie film for another chapter after his original Dead trilogy. This one ends up being a little better than his last (Day of the Dead) but inferior to his first two (Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead). Regrettably, Romero continues the silly plot thread from Day that had zombies becoming more self-aware and sympathetic.

Happily, this unrated "director's cut" restores some wild gore to the proceedings, some rather nasty stuff that was excised for the theatrical release (a moment where somebody's eye is bitten out of the socket is quite memorable). The plot, involving a high rise where people live in luxury while the lower class and zombies struggle in poverty, is a little too hammer-over-the-head. Still, in a land of PG-13 movies masquerading as horror films, this one offers a lot of sick delights.

Special Features: A couple of wasteful featurettes are negated by a great short film where Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead chronicle their visit to the set and eventual cameos as zombies. Romero offers a decent if not incredible commentary.

The Big Lebowski: Collector's Edition

Universal Studios Home Video
Movie A
Special Features D
DVD Geek Factor 8 if you don't own the first DVD; 4 if you do (out of 10)

The Coen Brothers followed up the critical success of Fargo with this brilliantly odd film about a pot-smoking bowler who calls himself "the Dude" and his involvement in a strange kidnapping plot. Jeff Bridges is perfection as the Dude, as is John Goodman as his loud-mouthed, very insane bowling partner. Highlights of this film include the bowling porno dream and the Dude's unfortunate struggles with a ferret in his bathtub.

Special Features: The only real improvements over the prior DVD for this film are better sound and video. The supplements are not all that exciting, and the making-of documentary is not new. This film has gained some cult status, and a feature examining that would've been cool. Great movie ... lazy DVD.

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