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Donnie Darko (Blu-Ray)

20th Century Fox
Movie Director's Cut A-; Theatrical Cut B+
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 8.5 (out of 10)

This cult film gets better with each viewing. Richard Kelly made a very memorable directorial debut, from that great, evil Jake Gyllenhaal stare to Sparkle Motion.

The new Blu-Ray release contains both the theatrical and director's cuts of Kelly's time-traveling oddity. The director's cut has some cool graphics that help explain what Donnie (Gyllenhaal) is dealing with as far as parallel universes, artifacts and whatnot. The first time I saw the movie, it was a little hard to follow. Now, not only does everything make perfect sense; it's all sort of heartbreaking in the end.

While this is the film that revealed Gyllenhaal as a real talent, there are also great supporting performances. Jena Malone is excellent as Donnie's love interest, and Mary McDonnell delivers a unique performance as his mom. (I love the way she laughs at her children.) Patrick Swayze, Noah Wyle and Drew Barrymore also deliver noteworthy work. This is the movie where Seth Rogen made his big-screen debut; he plays a bully.

Sure, this is a time-travel movie, but it's also a great love story and mystery. Kelly lays out a very complex plotline, and he ties it all together quite satisfyingly.

There's a direct-to-video sequel coming out in late April, apparently dealing with Donnie's younger sister (played again by Daveigh Chase, who has been real cool on Big Love). I just watched the trailer, and this is not something I'm looking forward to.

Special Features: The director's-cut version contains the great Kevin Smith/Richard Kelly commentary, where Smith drops by to ask questions and dole out the praise. This is a good commentary to take in, because the duo manages to answer a lot of questions about the universe (or universes) that Kelly created for the film. The theatrical cut has a commentary with Kelly and the cast (including Gyllenhaal). The two-disc set also includes a lengthy and interesting production diary.


W. (Blu-Ray)

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

This is one of last year's most underrated and mistreated movies. Josh Brolin is incredible and fascinating as George W. Bush, who, in the eyes of Oliver Stone, is a tragic figure of Shakespearean proportions. The film examines the life of the now-former president, from his college days through the early stages of the Iraq war.

Some think Stone lobbed a softball with this one by failing to go after Bush with venom. While it's true that this film takes a somewhat human approach to the guy, it is by no means soft. Stone and Brolin portray Bush as a brash, bumbling fool who had no business holding the highest office in the land.

Special Features: A Stone commentary, deleted scenes and some very good documentaries.


The Secret Policeman's Balls

Shout Factory
Movies B+
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

This compilation gathers a series of benefit concerts for Amnesty International featuring British comedians and musicians. Monty Python's John Cleese brought some of his pals (including Graham Chapman and Michael Palin) to the stage for live renditions of Python classics in concerts from 1976 to 1989.

On the music side, you will get stunning performances by Pete Townshend (his "Won't Get Fooled Again" and "Pinball Wizard" are classic), Sting and Peter Gabriel. Bob Geldof's version of "I Don't Like Mondays" is also quite nice, with his appearance a precursor to him becoming Mr. Live Aid.

Special Features: A 2004 documentary look-back at the benefits, and some nice music outtakes (including Townshend's phenomenal solo take of "Drowned").


The Passion of the Christ: Definitive Edition (Blu-Ray)

20th Century Fox
Movie A
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 9 (out of 10)

Rejoice, because now you can watch Jesus getting his ass kicked in high definition. The picture is so good that you can separate the J-man's red and white blood cells with the naked eye!

I'm sticking with my original high rating for the movie, even though Mel Gibson went nuts after its release. It's still a well-made movie, and nobody has ever gotten his skin ripped off with such grace as Jim Caviezel in the title role. The cinematography, overall direction and, yes, the gore are all very accomplished.

I don't look at this as a religious movie, for I am not religious. I do see it as a fascinating take on a man's willingness to sacrifice, and it stands as an interesting study of how to crucify a guy. Man, those Romans were sick bastards.

Special Features: The package contains both the hard-core violent version and the more sublime version for Sunday School. There's a commentary with a spooky Gibson, lots of making-of stuff and deleted scenes.

More by Bob Grimm

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