By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Twin Peaks: The Second Season (Paramount)
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. 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 trainwreck for themselves. But this might not be the time to do it: There's barely any special features here, and word is, a massive boxed set of the series and film will land later this year. --Jordan Harper
The Natural: Director's Cut (Sony)
Barry Levinson's decision to recut his 23-year-old baseball yarn, starring Robert Redford as aging phenom Roy Hobbs, feels more 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's well served, though, by the second disc's docs and shorts, dealing with everything from the use of slow-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
Death of a President (Lions Gate)
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, never even got 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 Candidateand The Parallax View. --R.W.
The Good Shepherd (Universal)
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. --J.H.