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United 93

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

This film still stands as the best of the year thus far. Director Paul Greengrass has made one of the more harrowing film experiences in recent years, a significant testament to the people who fought their hijackers and probably saved many lives.

Greengrass employs a sort of real-time, documentary feel to his filmmaking (much like his previous Bloody Sunday), and the effect is a bit hard to take, as it should be. Unlike Oliver Stone's World Trade Center, this film doesn't attempt to make us feel good about Sept. 11 in a Hollywood sort of way. When it's over, you feel drained and obliterated. If you are going to make a movie on this horrible subject, I think that's the way the film should make you feel.

The film isn't what I would call entertainment, but it is certainly an important and insightful piece of work. By not glamorizing what the people of United 93 went through, the filmmakers treated this story with respect. This is a fine memorial to some very brave people.

It's been a terribly slow film year, and it's safe to say this one will make my personal Top 10 come December. I had a miserable time watching it, and that just makes perfect sense to me.

Special Features: Director Paul Greengrass delivers a strong commentary. This guy is one intelligent director, and the film is a remarkable viewing experience while hearing him talk about it. A documentary focusing on the family members left behind is the most significant of the features. It's touching to watch one of the actors go visit the relatives of the person he was playing.

Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977 and 2004 Versions)

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Movie A Freaking Plus!
Special Features B
DVD Geek Factor Absolute 10 for Star Wars fans; features be damned! (out of 10)

Here it is, Star Wars geeks. After years of clamoring for George Lucas' original vision, warts and all, the tight-assed auteur has finally let go and allowed the unaltered version of Star Wars (and its first two sequels, The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi) see the light of day on DVD.

Han Solo shoots first and doesn't step on Jabba's tail; the X-Wing fighters look like shit; and there's no extra Bantha beasts running around. It's awesome! The special edition has its own charms, and is still a great film, but it makes sense to have this one in the archives. It's damn weird to watch the title crawl without the Roman numeral.

From the instant the old Lucasfilm logo shows up, to that first shot of the big ship (that's still a doozy), it's just so much fun to see it the way it first appeared. The soundtrack even sounds all old and tinny. I don't know why I enjoy this sort of thing so much, but it really is a blast.

Special Features: The two-disc set features both the special edition and the unaltered version, so that's relative coolness. The Lucas commentary from the first DVD special-edition release is here, but he offers no commentary on the unaltered version. It actually would've been funny to hear Lucas blasting his original work, but alas, he chickened out. There's a LEGO Star Wars game demo and trailer for game hounds. The unaltered version actually appears on what is being called the bonus disc, so I guess that makes it a rather good special feature. Internet rumors suggest Lucas is readying a complete Star Wars set, with all of the films in the series and new features, so start saving your money. You know damn well you are going to buy it, even if it hurts your soul.

Taps: 25th Anniversary Special Edition

20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Movie A-
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 7.5 (out of 10)

I love this movie. Freaking love it. One of my favorite films from my youth finally gets the special-edition treatment. This bastard is already 25 years old!

While basically being Timothy Hutton's last true shining moment, this film managed to kick start the careers of a couple of little-known actors named Sean Penn and Tom Cruise. They all play cadets at a military school that is going to be closed so that developers can turn the grounds into condos. The students revolt, take charge of the weapons and hold their own school hostage.

Cruise showed that he had a knack for intense characters with his Red Beret nutjob. His moment with the big gun at the film's end, firing into a crowd of soldiers and screaming, "It's beautiful, man!" still stands as one of his career highlights. Penn simply comes off as the best actor in the bunch, and that's because he was.

The premise is silly, but the execution is rousing. From the moment the cadets clack their guns on the ground and have Hutton's back, this is '80s cheese at its greatest.

Special Features: A director's commentary and a couple of featurettes. No big deal--the reason to have this one is the kick-ass movie. It's beautiful, man!

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