X-Men 1.5 is a sneaky way to squeeze a few more dollars out of the public's hands and get X-Men back in their minds for the sequel, which hits theaters in May. X-Men, based on the comic of the same name, is about a group of mutant humans who fight other mutant humans to decide their place in society. The disc's audio and video quality seem to be no different from the first DVD release. The 2.35:1 anamorphic video is excellent, with lots of fine detail. One new addition is the DTS soundtrack, which is just as good as the original Dolby Digital 5.1.
Extras on disc one include commentary by director Bryan Singer and a branching version of the movie that, when accessed, shows deleted scenes and some fairly interesting behind-the-scenes footage. Unfortunately, you can only access these extras while you watch the movie, which, with the interruptions, is exceedingly long. You can't fast-forward to each branch or view the extras separately like you could on the original DVD. The second disc offers interviews, documentaries, and more behind-the-scenes footage. There's also behind-the-scenes material on X-Men 2, but why anyone would want to watch that before the movie comes out is beyond me. If you already own X-Men on DVD, there's barely enough new material here to warrant a rental. If you're looking to buy it for the first time, though, this is the version to get.—Geoffrey Morrison
DVD: Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams—Buena Vista
Last year's Spy Kids was no fluke. Robert Rodriguez, who began his career creating mayhem-filled shoot-'em-ups, has now made two imaginative, highly original family movies. In this case, the sequel is as strong as the original. Spy Kids 2 is a James-Bond-meets-The-Lost-World swirl of fantastic gadgets, family values, and homages to screen icons ranging from Indiana Jones to Ray Harryhausen. Rodriguez has the perfect creative touch for this kind of film: It's a fast-paced, action-packed movie that has just enough gross-out humor to entertain the older kids without being too scary (or too gross) for little viewers.
The disc's 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is true to Rodriguez's warm, Southwestern palette, but its clarity tends to give away some of the green-screen special effects. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is as bright and booming as a live-action cartoon should be. Rodriguez has crammed a remarkable amount of tips, tricks, and behind-the-scenes minutiae into two of the DVD's special features. Budding filmmakers, take note: Rodriguez's mile-a-minute commentary track and the "Ten-Minute Film School" featurette probably contain more real-world lessons than a semester's worth of classes at some highfalutin university. Sadly, the rest of the bonus tracks aren't nearly as good; some are even downright lame, for kids or adults. That's easily fixed, though. Just flip back to the movie.—Drew Hardin