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Ed Wood

Touchstone
Movie A
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

When word first came out that director Tim Burton would be doing a biopic on Ed Wood, long regarded as film history's worst director, many didn't know what to make of it. Burton had been labeled as self indulgent in the past (his recent Batman Returns left many comic book fans scratching their heads) and the subject matter seemed a bit risky. After all, Edward D. Wood Jr. was the guy who made Plan 9 from Outer Space, a film most people chose to forget the instant they were watching it. Burton's film, starring Johnny Depp as the angora-loving nutball, turned out to be the director's best film, and cemented Depp's status as one of the biz's best young actors. It's a film that starred Bill Murray as a character named Bunny Breckinridge, and Martin Landau as a mighty convincing Bela Lugosi (he would take home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor). Its arrival on DVD has been delayed a few times, but now comes the chance to see Burton at his warped best and Depp delivering his finest performance yet. Ed Wood actually inspired a rejuvenation of interest in the eponymous director's catalogue of movies (a large collection of his most notorious films became available on October 12). The films of Edward D. Wood Jr. will always suck ass no matter how generous a mood you are in, but Ed Wood is a classic, and could remain Burton's crowning achievement.

Special Features: Johnny Depp, in drag while shooting the film, taped an introduction to a behind-the-scenes feature that makes it onto a segment called Let's Shoot This F#*%@r!. Footage includes the prep and the aftermath of Landau's infamous tangle with a fake octopus in a scummy pond. Landau and Burton offer up a fun commentary, and some deleted scenes seem decent enough to have been in the film.


The Shawshank Redemption: 10th Anniversary

Warner Brothers
Movie A
Special Features A
DVD Geek Factor 7 (out of 10)

The best adaptation of a Stephen King film remains The Shining, but this one is definitely up there. This second DVD edition commemorates the 10-year anniversary of the film's release, a movie that has gained in popularity since its initial lukewarm reception. Tim Robbins has never been better as Andy, a wrongly convicted man trying to make the best of it while serving a life sentence. Strangely, Morgan Freeman's career seemed to peak with this one. With the exception of Seven, his films have been mediocre at best since then. This is a movie that will age well; seeing it on DVD now shows what an enduring achievement director Frank Darabont created.

Special Features: This is a very good disc. It features two decent documentaries that explore the making of the film and its significance in film history. A funny spoof called The Sharktank Redemption is worth a look, and Darabont provides a striking commentary. A double-disc treat that is worthy of the film.


Dawn of the Dead: Unrated Director's Cut

Universal Studios
Movie B+
Special Features B-
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)

Holy crap! Not another Dawn of the Dead review. Before you hurl the paper at the wall and renounce this column completely, this is not George Romero's classic flesh-eater extravaganza. This is the 2004 remake from director Zack Snyder that employs the "running around like a maniac" zombie, à la 28 Days Later, as opposed to the lurching, stumbling ghouls of Romero's universe. Snyder did himself good by casting the likes of Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames, who lend the remake credibility and both deliver good work. This unrated version is a bit longer and gorier, although Snyder mysteriously avoids the whole idea of zombies chowing down on their victims. Oh, they bite the hell out of everyone, but there are no scenes of zombies gnawing on human bones and entrails. For zombie enthusiasts, this could actually qualify as a loss. The film itself is one of the better horror remakes, honoring the original while striking out on its own as a unique film. Good scares all over the place and one of cinema's all-time best uses of a Johnny Cash song.

Special Features: Snyder filmed a couple of things especially for this release. The Lost Tape offers a home movie made by Andy the gun shop owner, who videotapes himself up to the time he is bit and turns over to the zombie side. While this feature has its share of chills, Special Report: Zombie Invasion isn't nearly as successful. In actuality, its attempt to deliver the feel of a real newscast during a zombie invasion is remarkably stupid. Snyder and producer Eric Newman deliver a decent commentary that reveals a few cool secrets (example: The helicopter that appears in the film's opening sequence is the copter from Romero's film).

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