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Hostel: Unrated Widescreen Cut

Sony Pictures
Movie B
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

Director Eli Roth is perhaps one good film away from joining the ranks of John Carpenter, Sam Raimi and Wes Craven as one of the great all-time horror directors. Personally, I think he's there already, but some hard-core horror fans probably need at least three films from the guy to declare him legitimate.

After his gleefully sick Cabin Fever, Roth returned with this funny and repugnant film (presented by Quentin Tarantino) about American backpackers in Europe who are a little too trusting when it comes to foreign travel advice. After a stoner in Amsterdam tells them of a hostel full of beautiful girls in a Slovakian city, Josh and Paxton (Derek Richardson and Jay Hernandez) head out for a tour stop they will soon regret.

Unfortunately for our heroes, the hostel turns out to be nothing but a fly trap for tourists, a final stop before a torture warehouse where people pay big bucks to live out their sadistic fantasies. People get tortured and dismembered in this film, and the proceedings ain't pretty. If horror and scary movies are not your game, please don't bother. This film will hurt you.

This is the unrated version, yet very little seems different from the theatrical cut. A few seconds of gore here and there, and "poof," you have an unrated film. I thought the movie deserved an NC-17 rating as it stood. It was one of the nastiest R-rated films I'd ever seen.

Richardson and Hernandez do some very fine work as the victims, two of the best freaked-out horror characters this side of Jamie Lee Curtis. The two scream and plead with the best of them.

Special Features: Not one, but four commentaries, with Roth present on all of them. Producer Quentin Tarantino shows up for the first commentary to shower his praise upon Roth and talk very, very fast. On another track, movie critic Harry Knowles does a phone-in (it was Knowles who allegedly provided some inspiration for the film, alerting Roth to a sick Web site that claimed people could pay to shoot victims in the head). The DVD also provides a nice behind-the-scenes featurette that covers the production in Prague, everything from makeup effects to the evacuation of a tent because somebody farted. One of the more amusing moments would be Roth telling the crew he hired a string quartet to play during shot breaks to make a creepy location shoot a little more pleasant. There's also a feature where you can get multi-angle views of kids destroying a car. Roth provides a caption describing how one of the children broke protocol, threw a real brick and almost hit an actor in the head, calling these actions "awesome." This guy is pretty damn funny.

Crumb: Widescreen Special Edition

Sony Pictures
Movie A
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 6.75 (out of 10)

This one was "presented by" David Lynch, who lent his name to Terry Zwigoff's documentary on cartoonist Robert Crumb to help the guy get some publicity (as did Tarantino for the movie described above). Zwigoff followed his buddy Crumb around for years, filming him as he did publicity tours, talked with his family or simply listened to his record collection. The film is principally located in San Francisco, leading up to the time that Crumb left the United States and moved to France.

Crumb, whose most famous works include "Fritz the Cat" (he hated the movie version), is surprisingly open about his life and times in this film. He gives plenty of detail about his domineering father, his childhood shoe fetish that had him humping footwear in closets, and his relationships with women. Much of what he says provides interesting background for his outlandish cartoons.

When Zwigoff interviews Crumb's brother Charles, it's a fascinating sit-down. The Crumb brothers discuss their obsessions with Treasure Island and comic books, their strange childhood clubs and Charles' eventual mental decline. The reclusive Charles committed suicide a year after his interview was filmed.

Another Crumb brother, Maxton, is also interviewed, and he makes Charles look refreshingly normal. Sitting on a bed of nails and cleansing his intestines by swallowing cloth rope, R. Crumb observes his brother's behavior with a befuddled look on his face. During both interviews, R. Crumb constantly laughs an uncomfortable laugh, as if he can't believe what his siblings are revealing.

Special Features: Roger Ebert sits down with Zwigoff for a commentary. Ebert always does good work on commentary tracks (he did a great one for Citizen Kane), and this one is no exception.


20th Century Fox
Movie B+
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

I thought this film about a suicidal man (Ryan Gosling) was very well done, but critics jumped all over it. It's one of those puzzle movies that doesn't spell everything out for you, and it owes plenty to David Lynch. Those who dig films like Mulholland Dr. are encouraged to check this one out. Directed by Marc Forster (Finding Neverland), perhaps it'll get the attention it deserves on DVD. Probably not.

Special Features: Some scene-specific commentary, and a couple of featurettes.

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