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Persepolis (Blu-Ray)

Movie A
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 8.5 (out of 10)

A gripping animated story of a young girl in Iran during the fall of the Shah. We see her grow, question the political environment around her and purchase Iron Maiden albums in back alleys.

Based on the autobiographical comic by Marjane Satrapi, it's like no cartoon that has come before. Funny and even a little scary in spots, the film is a constant surprise. Among its pleasures are the young girl belting Survivor's "Eye of the Tiger" with her thick accent. The animation is in striking black and white, and very unique. Persepolis was nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar, but was unjustly snubbed in the Foreign Film category.

Special Features: This disc contains both the English and French versions of the film; the likes of Sean Penn and Iggy Pop show up for the English version, while Catherine Deneuve shows up in both. There's also a behind-the-scenes look at the film, and commentary on select scenes.

Sex and Death 101

Anchor Bay
Movie D-
Special Features C+
DVD Geek Factor 2.5 (out of 10)

For a real bad time, catch this reunion of Winona Ryder with her Heathers scribe, Daniel Waters. Waters directs this atrocious sex comedy about a soon-to-be-married man (Simon Baker) who receives a list of the women he could have sex with if he were to stay single. His fiancée shows up on the list in the upper 20s, but the list has 101 women, including alleged Playboy centerfolds, so he forgets about the wedding and gets to humping.

Ryder, in a cameo-size role, plays a serial-almost-killer who has been terrorizing the neighborhood by putting men in comas at the end of their dates. It's a total downer to see the once-great Ryder struggling through junk like this. Who gives a crap whether she's a shoplifter or not? She's a great actress, and she should be getting roles that match her talent--not shit like this.

Baker is a big part of the film's problems. He has zero charisma in the lead role, and he doesn't seem to know he's in a dark comedy. Waters, who both directed and wrote the film, puts outlandish elements in his script, yet his directing style is flat and listless. The guy is genuinely funny, but something went wrong in the filmmaking process. Perhaps a stronger leading man would've helped.

Supporting players like Patton Oswalt strain for laughs and get none. If you think men having accidental sex with elderly lepers sounds like a gas, then this one is for you.

Special Features: Waters delivers a commentary that is far more amusing than the film.

The Brandon Teena Story: Collector's Edition

Movie A-
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 7.5 (out of 10)

Hearing a disgusting authority figure named Sheriff Laux interrogating a post-rape Brandon Teena, practically chastising him for his sexual-identity crisis, is just about as awful as things get. Brandon Teena is the Nebraska woman who believed he was a man. He was shot and killed along with two friends, even though authorities were well aware that he was in danger, as he was victimized and terrorized by former friends who viewed him as a freak and a liar.

The documentary assembles many interviews, including talks with Brandon's killers and former girlfriends. The predominant view seems to be that Brandon was a great guy and a caring boyfriend. It was only when his true sex was revealed that some people's opinions of him became dramatically altered. This is the story that inspired Boys Don't Cry, the excellent film that won Hilary Swank her first Oscar.

Truthfully, hearing Sheriff Laux interrogate Brandon comes off as something that can only be fiction, because it is absolutely ridiculous how horribly the victim was treated. Unfortunately, it's all true.

Special Features: Some extended interviews, and an interview with the directors 10 years after the movie was made.

Futurama: The Beast With a Billion Backs

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

The further adventures of Bender and crew are a little scattershot this time out, but they are still pretty funny. An octopus-like creature (voiced by David Cross) from another universe threatens Earth--but then starts dating the entire planet. It's hard to explain.

This is definitely one of the stranger Futurama adventures I've seen. The highlight would be Bender the robot, in an effort to assemble an army of robots from hell, having no problem with an offer made by a Satan robot. I also enjoyed how a walrus creature would often vomit from both his saltwater and freshwater stomachs. One side would produce starfish and Nemos, while the other would reveal ducks. Really ... quite strange.

Special Features: Plenty of commentary participants, deleted scenes, storyboards and a hilarious segment showing Cross at work in the recording booth. There's also a sneak peek at the next straight-to-video Futurama.

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