Superman II: The Richard Donner CutWarner Home Video
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 10 (out of 10)
While filming the original Superman, director Richard Donner shot a lot of footage for the anticipated sequel. After the release of Superman, Donner was fired and replaced by Richard Lester, who did a decent job with Superman II but stunk up the place with Superman III. After much online clamoring by fans, Warner Bros. recently gave Donner a budget and told him to put together his intended version of the film.
This is one of the more remarkable DVDs you are likely to see. While the film is incomplete in some ways, it works as a darker, better movie than Lester's cut. Donner saw three super villains coming to Earth on a conquering mission as a serious thing, while Lester made it comic-book goofy (a little like Joel Schumacher's slaughtering of the Batman franchise in the '90s). Superman II was a good movie, but it's clear from what we see here that Donner had intended something classic.
The most shocking change would be the presence of Marlon Brando as Superman's pop. As you might recall, a contractual dispute led to this footage being left out of the theatrical cut, and Christopher Reeve ended up chatting with his mom in the Fortress of Solitude. The new Brando footage is great, especially in a sequence where Clark Kent changes back into Superman after a foray into being nothing but human. The stuff between Reeve and Brando winds up being some of the best scenes in the entire Superman franchise.
Gone is the sequence where Lois Lane (Margot Kidder) jumps into a river because she believes Clark Kent is Superman and expects him to save her. It's replaced by two sequences, one where Lane leaps out of a window and another where Lane pulls a gun on Kent. The gun scene is actually a screen test between Kidder and Reeve. (Donner never got to shoot the sequence.) The hairstyles change like crazy, but the scene is a great one.
Special Features: There are plenty of deleted scenes, a fun commentary with Donner as he expresses his amazement in seeing his finished film, and a documentary on the restoration of his cut.
Da Ali G Show: Da Compleet SeereezHBO
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 8.5 (out of 10)
For those of you who saw Borat for the first time on a big screen, he had many, even funnier adventures on TV during this show's two-year American run. Ali G, the character for which the show was named, was the main focus of the program, with another Sacha Baron Cohen alter ego, Bruno, being the third. Bruno the fashion reporter will be getting his own movie soon; Ali G already got one, and it bombed.
In time for Christmas, both seasons are put into a pretty little box with a changing picture (at one angle, you see Ali G; at another, you see Borat). The Ali G character gets some of the best moments in the series, including abrasive interviews with Andy Rooney (the most intolerant man on the planet) and James Baker (pretty levelheaded).
Back when the Season Two disc was reviewed here, before Borat the movie, Borat's infamous visit to Tucson was discussed. Yes, "Throw the Jew Down the Well" is included in this set, as are all of the other episodes.
Special Features: There's nothing new to this set. It's just a repackaging of the old discs--but still very much worth having.
King Kong: The Extended EditionUniversal Studios Home Video
Special Features A
DVD Geek Factor 10
As he did with his Lord of the Rings trilogy, director Peter Jackson has followed up his decent, but relatively bare-bones, DVD release with a second, much more impressive set for Kong.
While changes for the extended edition of King Kong aren't nearly as dramatic as Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings extended editions, there are still some noteworthy additions to the theatrical cut.
Best of all would be a new scene where the rescue party is attacked by a dinosaur, similar to a deleted scene from the original Kong. This is actually a very violent sequence. It was supposed to precede the brontosaurus scene, but Jackson cut it to move the action along.
Another sequence would be a swamp scene where the men are attacked, at first, by some strange scorpion/crab hybrid. They then battle a sea creature that involves some terrific underwater action. The scene is a bit long, but noteworthy because it contained Carl Denham (Jack Black) continuing to film as one of the crew members is killed and consumed, showing that he was a major bastard.
Special Features: This one's packed status makes it one of the better discs of the year, if not the best. As with Rings, there's an extensive making-of documentary that spends hours behind the scenes. There are also many deleted scenes (some of them with unfinished special effects), a blooper reel and a way to access Jackson's 1996 script of Kong. (Jackson was working on Kong before Rings, but the plug was pulled after the failure of Godzilla at the box office.)