Digital Breakdown: An epic ‘American Gangster’ 

Much of the acclaim for "American Gangster" is well-deserved. It features two of today’s best actors: Denzel Washington, who plays the gangster, and Russell Crowe, who plays a New Jersey cop tracking him. Set in the 1970s, the film is patterned after the story of a real-life criminal. Director Ridley Scott has a knack for making classics, from "Blade Runner" to "Alien" to "Gladiator." Here, he’s done it again, using actors with whom he’s familiar and offering a hearty script that gives the heavyweights a chance to shine. The three-disc deluxe DVD has an audio track commentary, an alternate opening, deleted scenes and information about script meetings, filming, and a show-and-tell with the cast. The granddaddy of them all is "Fallen Empire: Making of American Gangster," a nine-part feature-length documentary that is a virtual clinic on how to make a movie — from the beginnings of the script to the sound editing. It’s an awesome accompaniment to a very good film. Price: $34.96 Rent or buy: Buy.


"Rendition" describes how the U.S. takes an apprehended suspected terrorist and covertly transfers him to a secret prison outside the country. The film also touches other hot-button issues, including waterboarding, government-sanctioned torture and detaining people who haven’t been represented by a lawyer. "Rendition" is told from various perspectives: a family man from Egypt taken against his will and shipped to a secret prison, his wife (Reese Witherspoon) trying desperately to find him with the help of a friend in the Senate, a CIA agent (Jake Gyllenhaal) told to "witness" the man’s subsequent torture, and the boss of the secret prison trying to keep his own Muslim family together in a world becoming more extremist every day. Whether you believethe statement "the United States does not torture," will determine whether or not you like "Rendition"; its politics are definitely skewed in one direction. Price: $28.98 Rent or buy: Good rental.


The Oscar-worthy "Michael Clayton" stars George Clooney as a burned-out lawyer who cleans up the messes made by clients of a large law firm. When he uncovers a plot to rob farmers hurt by a chemical company’s products, he sees an opportunity to find some sort of purpose to his life again. While not quite a thought piece, the movie does make you wonder what you’d do in similar situation: Bite your tongue and toe the line or expose wrongdoers for who and what they really are. Because the special features on the DVD are limited, rent this version and pick up a special edition that will likely be released in about a year. Price: $28.98 Rent or buy: Good rental.


Feb. 20 marks the day that former Nirvana singer Kurt Cobain would turn 41 if he were alive. The icon for Generation X, Cobain remains beloved by many, and his music is everlasting. This documentary is based on more than 25 hours of unheard audio interviews conducted by music journalist Michael Azerrad. In the material, which had not been made public before this movie, Cobain talks about his life in his own words. The movie is a unique look at the man behind one of the greatest bands, and greatest tragedies, in the history of music. Price: $19.99 Rent or buy: Buy, if a Cobain fan.

Also coming to DVD Tuesday: "Cops: 20th Season Anniversary" "The Final Inquiry," "Nightmare Detective Unrated," "Black Water," "Gabriel," "Catacombs," "Zapped!" "Coach — The Third Season," "Lust, Caution," "Walker, Texas Ranger — The Complete Fourth Season," "In the Valley of Elah," "Married With Children — The Complete Eighth Season" and "Margot at the Wedding."

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Staff Report

Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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