King Kong: 2-Disc Special EditionUniversal Studios
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 8.5 (out of 10)
Last year's best movie gets its first DVD treatment, and it's a good one. The picture and sound are incredible, so if you opted to wait for the video on this one (Shame on you if you did!), you are getting a nice presentation.
If you haven't seen it yet, have patience with the first hour, because it will all make sense in the end. Some have complained that director Peter Jackson got a little carried away with this remake. I say more directors need to get carried away like this, because it makes for spectacular, blockbuster entertainment.
Occupying the Fay Wray role is Naomi Watts as Ann Darrow, one of last year's finest and most underappreciated performances. Jack Black hits a couple of odd notes as Carl Denham (played by Robert Armstrong in the 1933 original), but his overall work is first-rate. Andy Serkis continues his wonderful streak of CGI acting as Kong.
In a recent poll appearing in Premiere magazine, all of the film ratings were tallied, and the top 100 films of 2005 according to critics were chosen. King Kong came in tied for 10th. Crash, the Best Picture Oscar winner, came in 58th, just below Jimmy Fallon's Fever Pitch. Our own James DiGiovanna called King Kong one of the year's worst, further establishing himself as an outcast.
Special Features: The two-disc set is a nice companion piece to last year's DVD of the production diaries. Jackson has included the post-production diaries, showing all of the work done after the final day of shooting, as well as documentaries on Skull Island and the film's version of New York City. While it's probably contingent upon this disc's sales performance, an ultimate edition possibly featuring a longer edition of the film is expected later this year. Peter Jackson did not include a commentary on this one, so another edition is assured.
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 7.5 (out of 10)
Philip Seymour Hoffman got an Oscar for playing Truman Capote in what is essentially a film about the making of one of the greatest literary achievements, In Cold Blood. The film does a nice job conveying Capote's torment and his relationship with one of the infamous killers, played by Clifton Collins Jr. (Robert Blake portrayed Perry Smith the original film of In Cold Blood).
Hoffman is one of our best actors, and this film is proof. Big credit to director Bennett Miller for the look and feel of the movie.
Special Features: A couple of short documentaries, one on Capote himself and one on the making of the movie, are serviceable. Miller provides two commentaries, including one with Hoffman.
Paradise NowWarner Home Video
Special Features F
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)
Nominated for a Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, this chilling film about two Palestinians recruited for a suicide bombing is about as brutal a film as possible regarding this subject. It shows the thinking of two men, who come to different conclusions, as they set out to perform a mission their society has taught them is just.
Said and Khaled (Kais Nashef and Ali Suliman) are a couple of Palestinians working as mechanics and sucking on hookahs at day's end for relaxation. When they are informed that their time has come, Said seems more reluctant than Khaled, who seems hungry for his chance at heroic glory. The two are shaved and put into suits covering up powerful bombs. They must crossover into Israel and take out as many soldiers as possible.
This is a controversial film open to many different interpretations. I don't think it's a movie glorifying suicide bombers, but it doesn't demonize them, either. The film actually does a good job of not only humanizing them, but illustrating just how tragic their actions are on the simplest levels (loss of innocent lives, families left behind). Both sides of the argument are presented, and the argument against suicide bombing is put forth by the film's most intelligent and sympathetic character. This is a movie that forces you to think.
Special Features: None.
Searching for the Wrong-Eyed JesusHomevision
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 5.25 (out of 10)
Singer-songwriter Jim White takes you on a tour of the South, and some of what he finds (actually, most of what he finds) is pretty frightening. The film's sole purpose seems to be to illustrate how fucked up the South is, and on that basis, it succeeds. Most memorable are stops at a roadside bar where everybody is out of their minds, and a Pentecostal church where some folks are clearly taken by the Lord. There's music interspersed into the picture, and if you're a fan of bayou blues (I'm not), you'll probably like the film. It's interesting, but not a must-see.
Special Features: A director commentary, some more music and a moonshine recipe.