DVDs of the Week

George W. Bush dies, Twin Peaks lives.

Death of a President

Lionsgate, $27.98

After its September premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, where it was as hot a ticket as Borat, Gabriel Range's mock-doc about the assassination of George W. Bush in Chicago faded quickly; the movie, more a doc parody than Bush damnation, didn't even get a proper theatrical release. In truth, it never transcends its technical prowess, mashing up actual footage of the president and anti-war protestors with staged scenes. If nothing else, it's interesting to watch, as you try to piece together the actual from the make-believe. Its story, a whodunit in which you're left to guess whether the killing was the work of Al Qaeda or anti-Bush Americans, grips for a while but starts to wear thin. This ground was better covered by the likes of The Manchurian Candidate and The Parallax View. ROBERT WILONSKY

The Good Shepherd

Universal, $29.98

Can we agree that the problem with spy movies is all that sex, violence, and snappy pacing? Well, Robert De Niro's second film as director supplies a purported history of the CIA that carries all the brio of your Aunt Bertha's travel slides. Yeah, there's a pretty good movie somewhere here, though it doesn't add up to the slack-paced 168 minutes we're left with. De Niro thinks he's making an important film, but he should have tried making an exciting one, then let the importance follow naturally. Matt Damon is fine, as is the supporting cast of John Turturro, Alec Baldwin, and, hey, Robert De Niro. But they're all so stone-faced somber that it feels like everyone's mother died in a bus plunge just before filming. The only special feature is another 16 minutes of footage, for those who felt cheated by the original length. JORDAN HARPER

The Natural: Director's Cut

Sony, $24.94

Barry Levinson's decision to recut his 23-year-old baseball yarn, starring Robert Redford as aging phenom Roy Hobbs, feels more like an economic move than an artistic one. He's selling to the fan who can't get enough of this magical tale, a mythic betrayal of Bernard Malamud's novel; you own one copy, well, why not make it two? All he's done is reshape the first 20 minutes, casting it as flashback—to make Hobbs "darker," though this assertion doesn't fly so much as dribble foul. The additional footage doesn't add much; it's mostly Redford looking forlorn as he revisits old haunts. The collection is well served, though, by the second disc's docs and shorts, dealing with everything from the use of slo-mo to the heavy-handed history-cum-mythology that permeates every second of this feel-good film with the happy ending Malamud would have loathed. ROBERT WILONSKY

Twin Peaks: The Second Season

Paramount, $54.99

So, here it is: perhaps the most infamous shark-jumping in TV history. The first season of David Lynch and Mark Frost's comedy-horror-mystery-soap opera caused a cultural frenzy of "damn good coffee" quips and questions over who murdered prom queen/town doorknob Laura Palmer. It's also maybe the single finest season of television ever. Season two, not so much. For a while, it almost lives up to its former glory (much of it shot near North Bend, where fans still make pilgrimages). But after the killer is revealed and Lynch abandons the show, the dramatic tension drops so quickly your neck will hurt. Fans of season one will have to witness the train wreck for themselves. But this might not be the time to do it: There are barely any special features here, and word is a massive boxed set of the series and film will land later this year. JORDAN HARPER

Other Releases

Continuing the assassination theme, RFK gets shot in Emilio Estevez's Hollywood ensemble piece Bobby, in which Sharon Stone acquits herself reasonably well. Also set in the '60s, the reissued The Hours and the Times imagines a vacation interlude between Beatles manager Brian Epstein and John Lennon (a career-making role for Ian Hart). The gay sex farce Eating Out 2 is both cheerfully raunchy and dumb. Six lesser Doris Day titles are boxed together from her early contract days at Warner Bros. Cult viewing of a different kind is found in the documentary Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple. For another brand of scare cinema, there's A Talk With Your Kids About Smoking, made by an heir to the R.J. Reynolds tobacco fortune who's perhaps hoping to emulate Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth. From the late Argentine director Fabián Bielinsky, The Aura is a superior heist flick. Say what you will about Mel Gibson's politics, but a new collection including Braveheart and a director's cut of Payback shows he knows his way around a movie camera. And for a more genial sort of eccentric, there's the family documentary My Father the Genius, Lucia Small's affectionate portrait of her lost-in-the-'70s architect father.


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