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DVD reviews

Celluloid for the couch potato

The best in DVD releases this week

While Feb. 16 was not a big day for big-budget DVD releases, a few interesting independent films and a blockbuster reissue ought to fill your DVD weekend queue. Happy couch surfing.

Good Hair

2009, Lionsgate Home Entertainment

When comedian Chris Rock's daughter asked him a question about "good hair," to which a simple answer would be impossible, Rock enlisted director Jeff Stilson. Together, they collected a vast array of African-American celebrities to participate in a documentary about good hair and the $9 billion industry that grew around it.

In essence, "good" hair is straight hair, or white people's hair, and for a century, African-Americans have struggled with the desire to have good hair, and the larger sociopolitical implications of that desire. Malcolm X opened his autobiography with a horrific yet amusing description of "conking," the process used in the first half of the 20th century to straighten hair using lye. 

While the film does not delve deeply into the more complex issues at stake, it provides a series of alternately amusing and thought-provoking interviews from the likes of Rev. Al Sharpton, Ice-T, Maya Angelou and Salt-n-Pepa.

Hunger

2008, Criterion Collection

The 1981 H-Block hunger strike at Belfast's Maze Prison by Bobby Sands and his IRA brethren has been cinematically rendered before, most notably in 1996's "Some Mother's Son." The 1981 incident marked one of the more tense times during The Troubles, a violence-ridden period during the '70s and '80s that saw bombings and assassinations by the IRA and loyalist militia groups.

With "Hunger", winner of the 2008 Camera d'Or prize at Cannes, the definitive Bobby Sands biopic is painfully and gorgeously rendered by visual artist and first-time feature director Steve McQueen. Actor Michael Fassbender's brilliant performance as Sands anchors this visually-driven, sparse, affecting film, which ultimately refuses to enter the political fray of the film's subject, opting instead for stark and relentless recreation.

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Goodfellas: Blu-Ray 20th Anniversary Edition 

1990, Warner Home Video

So much has been said about Martin Scorsese's Best Picture winner that it seems impossible to remain in the dark about "Goodfellas." That said, the film tells the true story of New York gangster Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and his rise in the underworld of the outer boroughs in the 1960s.

The performances are impeccable. The production is flawless. Scorsese and collaborator Nicholas Pileggi's script is full of quotable gems, many of which have entered the lexicon of water cooler lurkers everywhere.

This commemorative Blu-Ray edition has more extras than anything we have ever seen, including commentary by all the major players, producers, and designers and a fancy digi-book.

Also included are 3 featurettes: "Getting Made, Made Men: The GoodFellas Legacy and The Workaday Gangster;" "Paper Is Cheaper Than Film: Storyboard-to-Screen Comparisons;" Theatrical Trailer; DVD documentary and "Mob of Classic Gangster-Themed Cartoons: I Like Mountain Music, She Was an Acrobat’s Daughter, Racketeer Rabbit and Bugs and Thugs."

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Ray Liotta, Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci in 'Goodfellas.'

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