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Zodiac: 2-Disc Director's Cut

Paramount Home Video
Movie A-
Special Features A
DVD Geek Factor 9.5 (out of 10)

David Fincher's fine film about the Zodiac killer got a lousy, bare-bones DVD release last year with no special features. Now comes the director's cut, and, man, it's an improvement as far as the features are concerned.

The film itself has about four extra minutes, and none of the changes are substantial. Still, it's fair to say the changes are good ones, because the movie felt as complete and thorough as it did the first time I watched it. I actually liked it even more.

The standout in the film is still Robert Downey Jr. as reporter Paul Avery, who received a letter from the killer during his time as an investigative reporter looking into case. It's one of the finest performances of an already impressive career. Jake Gyllenhaal is also impressive as Robert Graysmith, the comic artist who found himself involved in the investigation due to his puzzle-solving abilities.

While Fincher's film is a near-obsessive examination of the intricacies of crime investigation, it's not without its full-on horror moments. When the Zodiac killer attacks two lovers on a picnic, it amounts to one of the scariest sequences I've ever seen in a movie. If Fincher should ever take a crack at a horror film (Alien 3 doesn't really count), he'd probably make a masterpiece.

Mark Ruffalo, Brian Cox and Anthony Edwards all contribute mightily to the film, which boasted one of last year's finest casts.

Special Features: This makes up for the lousy first DVD release with a vengeance. Vast examinations of not only the film production, but also the actual case, are impressive. Producers got surviving investigators and victims to discuss the Zodiac investigation. It's amazing who they found to discuss the killer's nightmarish reign. The documentary This Is the Zodiac Speaking would be great as a stand-alone film. Fincher, Downey and Gyllenhaal all contribute commentaries, and they are each fascinating. It looks like a lot of work went into this one. Any ill will and anger caused by the skimpy first release has been resolved.

Hot Fuzz: 3-Disc Collector's Edition

Rogue Pictures
Movie B+
Special Features A
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

Here's another 2007 release that got a double-dip in less than a year. The first DVD release with this funny Simon Pegg comedy was decent enough, but this one goes totally nuts. Pegg and his screen partner, Nick Frost, take part in this funny spoof of cop-action films. Pegg plays a hard-core officer reassigned to a small town where strange things are afoot. Director Edgar Wright, who also helmed Shaun of the Dead, carries over some of the sick humor from that film.

Pegg and Frost are proving to be one of modern cinema's more reliable comic duos. Pegg will be playing Scotty in this year's reboot of the Star Trek series, and that should be interesting.

Special Features: For those who love their special features, go ahead and line up for this one. Five commentaries, The Fuzzball Rally, eight featurettes and even a look into the film's special effects are included. This disc is loaded.

The Kingdom

Universal Home Video
Movie C
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 5 (out of 10)

Director Peter Berg, who is pretty hit-or-miss, delivers a good-looking but hackneyed terrorism action pic. The likes of Jennifer Garner, Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman go to Saudi Arabia to investigate a terrorist bombing. When one of them gets kidnapped, the movie switches into rescue mode.

The performers do good, and Berg always makes visually compelling pictures. But I couldn't help but feel this was a dumbing-down of a horrible and complicated world problem. The screenplay offers few surprises, and I got the strange feeling that Chuck Norris could pop onscreen at any moment.

Special Features: The features are better than the movie. Commentary, deleted scenes and making-of documentaries are all decent.

The Simpsons Movie

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

While this wasn't as funny as vintage Simpsons television, it had a good share of laughs, and it was fun to see the characters on the big screen. Now, it comes to the home screen, a format the animated family is a little more familiar with.

For the big screen, Springfield found itself underneath a huge dome, deemed an environmental hazard due to Homer's polluting the town's water supply. The action eventually makes its way to Alaska, which is basically an excuse for arctic jokes at Homer's expense.

The environmental theme is a good one, and the film includes a funny cameo by Tom Hanks. Again, this is not the Simpsons at their best, but it's better than most stuff trying to pass for comedy these days.

Special Features: A director's commentary, deleted scenes and more. It's nothing too exciting, but this is far from slumming.

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