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Dog Day Afternoon: Two Disc Special Edition

Warner Brothers
Movie: A-
Special Features: A-
DVD Geek Factor: 8 (out of 10)

Al Pacino is a freaking god in this movie. As Sonny, the anxious bank robber who is just trying to get some scratch to pay for his male lover's sex change operation, he simply rules the world. That seminal moment where he screams "Attica ... Attica!" in front of that bank remains one of the most memorable of his career.

The film is a taut, suspenseful hostage drama that also manages to be a strange sort of dark comedy. Sonny's bank robbery goes bad pretty much from the start, and so begins a major comedy of errors. When the motive behind Sonny's robbery is revealed, and his sexuality becomes apparent, Pacino and director Sidney Lumet manage to avoid the usual clichés, making the film a landmark in gay cinema.

In supporting performances, Charles Durning is at his best as Moretti, the hapless detective who does a fairly lousy job negotiating with Sonny and keeping order on the streets. John Cazale (who died young, three years after the film's release) is somehow heartbreaking and creepy as Sal, the quiet psycho who is more than willing to start executing hostages. Look for Lance Henriksen (Bishop from the Alien movies) in a small part as a limo driver with a secret.

As crazy as this film is, it is actually based on a real bank robbery that had taken place a few years before.

Special Features: This continues a long line of extremely good treatments for Warner Brothers property. Along with a feature-length commentary from Lumet, the two-disc edition also features a four-part documentary on the making of the film. Lumet, Durning and Pacino all participate. Pacino reveals that it took him a long time to decide on playing Sonny because he didn't see himself in the role. Lumet, thankfully, talked him into it. The film can also be purchased as part of the Controversial Classics: Volume 2--The Power of the Media collection along with Network and All the President's Men.

Monty Python's Personal Best

Shows: B-
Special Features: C-
DVD Geek Factor: 5 (out of 10)

If you are a huge Python fan and Monty Python's Flying Circus ranks among your favorite television shows, you might find these discs a little irritating. Six discs that can be purchased separately or as part of a boxed set, these packages would work better as an introduction to the series, rather than something for diehard fans.

Each Python--John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and the late Graham Chapman--gets a disc dedicated to his favorite Python sketches. Some of the sketches are repeated often--the Fish Slapping Dance appears on four volumes. It's also a bit strange that each Python doesn't appear in all of his favorite selected sketches. Sometimes they throw something into their picks seemingly because they liked it, rather than choosing sketches that always feature themselves.

One big problem here is that the sketches are often cut short or interrupted. The beauty of Flying Circus was how all sketches were linked and connected through odd transitions, including Gilliam's masterfly animation. Fans will get irritated when sketches like The Spam Song don't play through to their hilarious conclusions.

All of the Pythons, with the exception of Chapman, provide new material for the disc's intros and outros. Cleese appears to have done the most work, playing himself poolside at the age of 96 and griping about the Pythons. Idle does his man-on-the-street shtick and Palin plays the Fish Slapper 40 years later.

Of the discs, the Gilliam edition is the best because it is dedicated solely to his animation, giving fans the chance to enjoy his bits all in a row rather than interspersed through episodes. Second-best would be the Chapman collection because it features the surviving Pythons reminiscing about their friend.

Ninety-five percent of all Flying Circus sketches were funny. That said, Palin's collection is probably the lowest on classic Python sketches. And for some strange reason, Cleese's classic Ministry of Silly Walks appears on the Chapman collection rather than his own.

Not a terrible set, but you are much better off with The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus 16-Ton Megaset, which contains the entire series without interruption.

Special Features: Some of the discs feature a few extra sketches. Each one contains a trivia game that starts easy, then gets rather difficult. I totally took a digger on the Chapman quiz.

The Weather Man

Paramount Home Video
Movie: C-
Special Features: B-
DVD Geek Factor: 4 (out of 10)

Yes, the image of Nicolas Cage's sullen weatherman getting hit by milkshakes on city streets is really funny, but that's about all this blasé affair has going for it. Cage switches his acting machine to vulnerable mode for this one to play David Spritz, who just might get his shot at national stardom by landing the weatherman gig on a Good Morning America-type show. He's having a terrible time with his ex-wife (Hope Davis) and his kids aren't necessarily enthralled by his celeb status. Cage tries hard, but director Gore Verbinski comes up short as the film fails to engage.

Special Features: Some bland featurettes about a bland movie.

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