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Star Wars: Episode III--Revenge of the Sith

20th Century Fox Home Video
Movie A
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

Finally, the entire Star Wars saga is available for purchase, and chapters one through six can be viewed in succession within the confines of home. While many Star Wars fans remain bitter over creator George Lucas' recent trilogy (unable to forgive the Jar Jar fiasco), Revenge of the Sith was easily the best of his newer films.

This review comes from a guy who thought The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones were often very good, but not great, movies. Sith, on the other hand, is great, a film where Lucas got all of the cylinders firing and delivered the goods promised. Yes, Natalie Portman is a wet noodle this time out, and some of the dialogue is cringe-inducing (a malady that afflicts all of the Star Wars films). Flaws taken, Sith is a ton of fun to watch.

Like Episode 5--The Empire Strikes Back, the tone is darker in Sith, and that's when Star Wars worked best. Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) journeying to the dark side of the force makes for a film of few lulls, plenty of action and one twisted finale. The sight of Anakin burning to a crisp while mentor Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) simply watches it all go down is the stuff of great cinematic tragedy.

When the mask seals on Anakin Skywalker's head, and that infamous breathing overtakes the soundtrack, it's one of the great iconic moments in movie history. For those who first saw Darth Vader storming aboard Princess Leia's ship in theaters nearly 30 years ago, it's a real mind trip.

The story of Darth Vader has been an amazing one. Lucas tied up the saga brilliantly, and here's hoping the future television series will include stories about Lord Vader and the forgotten years.

Special Features: An excellent commentary with Lucas and members of his production team reveals plenty for Star Wars nerds. Packed with documentaries (including the excellent ones posted on the Internet during the film's production), the DVD provides all one wants to know, and perhaps a little bit too much, about Sith. Within a Minute is a long look at the amount of work that went into about a minute of footage in the film (part of the final light saber battle between Anakin and Obi-Wan). I'm a Star Wars geek, but even I yawned when they started talking about the caterers. Deleted scenes, including one where Yoda is exiled to the planet Dagobah, are priceless.


Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills

New Video Group
Movie A
Special Features C-
DVD Geek Factor 6.5 (out of 10)

This troubling documentary about the West Memphis Three, three teenagers convicted for the murders of three young boys in the early '90s, finally comes to DVD. Those teenagers are now approaching 30, and they still sit in prison, one of them (Damien Echols) on death row, for crimes for which no substantial evidence implicating them was ever found. It seems they were convicted for wearing black, listening to Metallica and allegedly worshiping Satan.

The film covers the trial that eventually put the boys behind bars. Extensive interviews with the victims' families, as well as interviews with the accused and their families, make for a frightening portrayal of the judicial system and the sort of evil that can overtake an American town. To this date, no significant leads have been explored, because the authorities believe they caught their killers.

While the film doesn't draw any conclusions, it's pretty obvious that the trial was rather shabby. A supposed confession from one of the boys, who may've simply buckled under interrogation, was the main factor in convicting the three. That boy who made the confession recanted, and has never testified against his fellow accused.

The film was followed up by a sequel (Paradise Lost 2: Revelations). A Web site that goes into current developments on the case is available at wm3.org.

Special Features: More of Echols' testimony and a DVD link to current updates on the status of the case against the West Memphis Three.


Office Space: Special Edition With Flair

Twentieth Century Fox Home Video
Movie B
Special Features C
DVD Geek Factor 5.5 (out of 10)

Two characters in this movie are among the funniest in the last 10 years of movies. Gary Cole is hysterical as Bill Lumbergh, a boss that all of us have had at one time or another. Always armed with a coffee cup and preceding every statement with "umm ... yeah," he is the perfect representation of the boss you just can't trust. Stephen Root is comic gold as Milton, the mumbling office weirdo obsessed with red Swingline staplers and setting the building on fire.

Mike Judge's film didn't set the box office on fire, but it has gained a sort of cult status over the years. This is its second DVD release, and buyers have the option of buying a gift set that includes a coffee mug and red stapler.

Special Features: Not much: a documentary retrospective on the film and a few funny deleted scenes.

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