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ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (2004). The best film released this past spring found scripter Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation) coming up with another mindbender of a movie, an existential drama that, like a lovelorn Memento, often plays out in reverse order. When we first meet them, anally retentive Joel (Jim Carrey) and free-spirited Clementine (Kate Winslet) are drawn to each other on a beach, not realizing that they were once lovers. It's soon revealed that Clementine, bored with their relationship, opted to take part in a breakthrough procedure that allowed all traces of their romance to be permanently zapped from her memory. Angry and hurt, Joel elected to receive the same treatment; only once it began, he had second thoughts and then did everything he could -- solely within the parameters of his own mind -- to save his most precious moments with Clementine. If this sounds a tad confusing, that's because Kaufman doesn't exactly write stories that can be summed up in one line at a pitch meeting. Yet for all its smart-aleck shenanigans and dense plotting, this delightfully different movie is no mere parlor trick: It takes a serious look at the value of memories and the dangers of monkeying with the mind -- in a world ravished by Alzheimer's, a willful desecration of our reminiscences seems downright insane -- and its laughs are tempered by a sorrowfulness that dogs every scene. Eternal Sunshine is ultimately an odd sort of love story, a melancholy rumination that's as much about the head as the heart. DVD extras include audio commentary by Kaufman and director Michel Gondry, deleted scenes, a behind-the-scenes special, and interviews with Carrey and Gondry.
Movie: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

STAR WARS TRILOGY (1977-1983). The Holy Trinity of movies never released on DVD has finally made its long-awaited debut, though I'd be lying if I reported that the news was all good. George Lucas, whose reputation as a visionary filmmaker has almost been overtaken by his status as an arrogant and petulant megalomaniac, has made good on his claim that the original Star Wars films -- you know, the ones that made him fabulously wealthy while emerging as a cultural touchstone for a whole generation (mine) -- will never again be made available in any format (hold onto those dusty videocassettes). So whereas his good friend Steven Spielberg was respectful enough of the fans to populate his E.T. DVD with both the original and altered versions, Lucas has not only released the three films in their Special Edition incarnations (the ones that played theaters in 1997), he's gone ahead and made even more changes to the original material. Still, even a starving man would prefer a piece of stale bread over nothing, so once viewers swallow their bitterness and accept Lucas' conversion to the Dark Side of the Force, they'll still find plenty to get excited about in this four-disc collection. The movies themselves need little explanation: Star Wars (1977) continues to rank as a marvel of imagination and effects; The Empire Strikes Back (1980) nearly matches its predecessor thanks to the deepening of plot and characterizations; and Return of the Jedi (1983), while hampered by a repetitive storyline, the mishandling of Han Solo's character and the presence of those nauseating Ewoks, still contains several terrific set pieces. As for the copious extras, they include a lengthy documentary titled Empire of Dreams, shorter pieces on the characters, the history of the lightsaber and the trilogy's influence on other filmmakers, and a gallery of rare production stills.
Star Wars:
The Empire Strikes Back:
Return of the Jedi:
Extras: 1/2
George Lucas's Changes:

SUPER SIZE ME (2004). The United States' status as an oasis of overindulgence isn't exactly breaking news, which means that Morgan Spurlock's documentary wasn't exactly cutting-edge fare when it hit theaters this past summer. But Spurlock settled on a surefire gimmick for this picture: A fit young man, he decided to eat nothing but McDonald's food for a whole month, heading exclusively to the Golden Arches for his three squares a day. By the end of his experiment, he had gained roughly 25 pounds, witnessed his liver turn to "pate" (as described by one of his shell-shocked doctors), and found that his cholesterol had gone straight through the roof. Yet despite the obviousness of its conclusions, this is nevertheless an outrageously entertaining film that presents its material in such a compelling manner that we often feel like we're hearing its nuggets (McNuggets?) of information for the first time. Spurlock, who's arguably even more of a camera hog than Michael Moore, spends plenty of time documenting all aspects of his experiment -- "Hey, see me puke on-camera! Hey, watch me find a hair in my sundae!" -- yet he's also conscientious enough to conduct some investigative reporting on the side, talking with health advocates across the country and exploring the reasons why the fast food industry has become such an integral ingredient in the American lifestyle. This is a movie filled with big laughs, yet even the guffaws don't diminish the periodic bouts of anger, depression and horror we personally experience as we watch a nation eating itself into oblivion. There are some terrific extra features on this DVD, most notably a half-hour interview with Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser and an experiment (alternately hilarious and horrifying) in which Spurlock films various foods breaking down over the course of several weeks (watch what happens -- or rather, doesn't happen -- to the McDonald's fries).
Movie: 1/2
Extras: 1/2

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