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A Streetcar Named Desire: Two-Disc Special Edition

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

With the first, semi-mumbled line coming out of Brando's mouth in this trailblazing movie, the face of acting was changed forever. Brando's "method acting" was startling compared to those practicing their Hollywood trade around him, and his portrayal of Stanley Kowalski remains a marvel to this day.

Having already portrayed Stanley on Broadway, Brando fronted the motion picture of Tennessee Williams' play with much of the stage cast remaining intact (Vivien Leigh replaced Jessica Tandy as Blanche DuBois). Director Elia Kazan made a startling film (he also directed the play) that had censors reeling and catapulted Brando to stardom.

While the Brando performance is clearly the film's highlight, one should not ignore the fine work or Karl Malden as Mitch, Blanche's doomed lover. And, of course, Leigh delivered a spectacular performance, winning an Oscar for Best Actress.

Special Features: The highlight of this two-disc set would be the Brando screen test for Rebel Without a Cause. The film that would make James Dean was originally intended as a very different movie with Brando in the lead. Cinematic history would've been dramatically altered had Brando wound up playing chicken instead of Dean. There's a meaty documentary on Kazan, with others focusing on Brando and the show's Broadway run (five documentaries in all). There's also a feature commentary by Karl Malden, which constitutes maximum-degree coolness. Can be purchased as part of the Tennessee Williams Film Collection along with other films including Sweet Bird of Youth with Paul Newman and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Elizabeth Taylor.

The Long, Long Trailer

Warner Home Video
Movie B-
Special Features D
DVD Geek Factor 5.5 (out of 10)

OK, so it's not the greatest of films, but this teaming of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz has its charms. When Tacy (Ball) desires to live in a trailer instead of a conventional home, Nicky (Arnaz) caves, and the newlyweds set off on a long and treacherous trip. As the title implies, the trailer is a big mother, and when Nicky must climb an 8,000-foot-high mountain (with a bunch of Tacy's very heavy souvenirs hidden in back), it's a pretty good sequence.

Special Features: The DVD has a black-and-white short film that is of little consequence. The feature film can be purchased on its own or as part of the Lucy and Desi Collection that also features Too Many Girls and Forever, Darling.

Mel Brooks Box Set Collection

20th Century Fox
Movies See Review
Special Features C-
DVD Geek Factor 5 (out of 10)

The best reason to lay out $69-$100 for this collection is to get High Anxiety, Brooks' last good film, on DVD. The Hitchcock parody hasn't been available in the format until now, so it's nice to have it for DVD viewing. Featuring great bits poking fun at Psycho, The Birds and Vertigo, Brooks never hit these comic highs again. Garbage like Spaceballs and Life Stinks (not available in this package) and, worst of all, History of the World: Part I would follow.

In addition to High Anxiety, the package features what are basically reissues of two great Brooks films, Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein, the truly bad History, and four other titles never before available on DVD (the OK Robin Hood: Men in Tights, the decent Silent Movie and The Twelve Chairs, and the boring To Be or Not to Be).

Movie grades: Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein (A); High Anxiety (B); The Twelve Chairs and Silent Movie (B-); Robin Hood: Men in Tights (C+); To Be or Not to Be (D+); History of the World Part I (F).

Special Features: As far as extras go, there's nothing new here. Most of the discs are void of features, and the supplements for Young Frankenstein and Blazing Saddles, while decent, are just carryovers from prior DVD editions.

Good Night, and Good Luck

Warner Home Video
Movie A-
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

George Clooney took home an Oscar for acting this year, but his most impressive feat was this, his second feature-film directorial effort. After the excellent Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Clooney set his sights on one of the greatest milestones in television journalism history, Edward R. Murrow's standing up to Sen. Joe McCarthy's harebrained communist conspiracy crap.

Clooney proves himself one of the more daring, creative directors working in film today. His picture looks terrific, and he draws pitch-perfect performances out of David Strathairn (as Murrow), Patricia Clarkson, Robert Downey Jr. and himself. The movie is entertaining and informative, powerful and reminiscent of films like All the President's Men.

Special Features: A quickie documentary called Companion Piece that's interesting, if brief. Best feature is the commentary with Clooney and producer/screenwriter Grant Heslov. Clooney is hilariously dry as he comments on his own work.

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