The Big Valley


Twin Peaks: The Second Season

Here it is, perhaps the most infamous shark-jump in TV history. The first season of David Lynch and Mark Frost’s comedy-horror-mystery-soap caused a cultural frenzy of “damn good coffee” quips and questions about who murdered prom queen and 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 that 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 the film will land later this year. — Jordan Harper

The Natural: Director’s Cut

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 — why not make it two? All Levinson has 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 slow motion 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 parody than 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 protesters with staged scenes. If nothing else, it’s interesting to try to distinguish 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

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 as though everyone’s mother died just before filming. The only special feature is another 16 minutes of footage, for those who felt cheated by the original length. — Jordan Harper