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Bottle Rocket: The Criterion Collection

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

Wes Anderson's feature debut is a masterpiece and contains the best performance to date by Owen Wilson. It's rightfully adored by Martin Scorsese as one of the best films of the '90s. Marty is so damn right.

Owen Wilson stars with brother Luke as Dignan and Andy, two friends who plot out a relatively harmless life of crime. They rob a bookstore and go on the lam, where Luke's character falls in love with a hotel maid. Owen's character, Dignan, is a wonderful concoction of quirkiness--serious as a heart attack one moment, crushed and self-pitying the next. His moodswings are legendary, and Wilson maintains a realness that makes it seem impossible that he could be so bad in stuff like Drillbit Taylor.

Anderson started showing off his penchant for excellent music selections with this one, and his shot compositions are first-rate. The man hasn't made a bad film yet, and this one might still be his best. (Rushmore, his second film, is equally good.)

My favorite Owen Wilson moment remains a scene in which he's tooling around on a mini-bike in a yellow jumpsuit. A bully named Future Man (Andrew Wilson, yet another Wilson bro) mocks his appearance, and Dignan proclaims that he's "not always as confident as I look." There's just something about this moment that kills me--and it keeps me believing that Owen will return to greatness one of these days.

Special Features: Anderson and Owen Wilson discuss in both their commentary and a making-of documentary how preview screenings of the film were terrible. The two-disc set also contains great deleted scenes and the original black-and-white short that convinced executive producer James. L. Brooks to take a chance on some nutty guys from Austin. It's also worth noting that the new transfer is beautiful, and a Blu-Ray version is coming out shortly.

Saturday Night Live: The Complete Fourth Season

Show A
Special Features C-
DVD Geek Factor 7.75 (out of 10)

I was 10 when this season aired, and my memories of watching this stuff are very vivid. The Carrie Fisher episode, where the Blues Brothers debuted "Soul Man," floored my elementary-school ass. Now that I'm an older guy, I can go back and appreciate stuff like Frank Zappa hosting and opening the show with a fine rendition of "Dancin' Fool." Steve Martin only hosted once; Michael Palin and Buck Henry did two nights; and Kate Bush appeared as a musical guest. All in all, this was an extremely good season.

Special Features: There is very little, but interview footage of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players will be of some interest to fans. There's a good chat between John Belushi and Gene Shalit. John seemed a little twitchy.

Burn After Reading

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

The Coen Brothers delivered another good one this year, a brilliant comedy to follow up the brooding, award-winning No Country for Old Men. John Malkovich plays a cranky CIA analyst who quits after being reassigned. He decides to write his memoirs, and some of his personal files fall into the hands of two gym employees (Brad Pitt and Frances McDormand) who decide to blackmail him. George Clooney plays a federal marshal who winds up involved in the situation through Internet dating.

Malkovich is first-rate here, and deserves a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. Pitt gets a chance to cut up, and he's hilarious as a personal trainer who doesn't have his priorities straight. McDormand gets another opportunity to shine in a Coen movie, as does Clooney, who always lights up when he's in the Coen universe.

Special Features: There's no Coen commentary, of course, but there is a making-of documentary and a segment focusing on the return of Clooney to the Coen franchise. (This was their third film together.) At the end of the piece, the Coens proclaim that they will write a serious part for Clooney one of these days.

Lost: The Complete Fourth Season (The Expanded Experience)

Show A
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 9 (out of 10)

In previous years, I've waited for the DVD when it comes to this show, but I got a little more aggressive with TiVo this year and have actually managed to watch the whole season. I feel all caught up!

I'm loving the flash-forward stuff and the return of Michael (Harold Perrineau). However, while I'm caught up, episode-wise, I still don't really know what's up with that God-forsaken island. This show has done a terrific job of remaining ambiguous and mysterious without getting annoying.

Special Features: Characteristically loaded, with commentaries, bloopers, deleted scenes, on-set footage, lots of documentaries and a section dedicated to the definitive flash-forwards. Even if you watched it on TV, the DVD is worth your while and your money.

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