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'Iron' rich Superhero film was a money-maker, but still overlooked

It's too bad, in a way, that "Iron Man" was released in the summer of that cinematic behemoth, "The Dark Knight."

Sure "Iron Man" (Paramount Home Entertainment, available now) is a bona fide hit, garnering nearly unanimous praise from critics and fans alike and making more than $300 million in North America alone. Yet, like every other film released this year, it feels overshadowed by "The Dark Knight."

Robert Downey Jr. is outstanding as Tony Stark, the hard-drinking, hard-partying, wisecracking genius behind a U.S. weapons company. When he's kidnapped by terrorists who want him to create the ultimate weapon for their evil use, Stark builds an Iron Man suit from crude weaponry as a means to escape. Returning to the United States, he now wants to help the people whose lives have been destroyed by his weapons -- news that doesn't bode well for people who profit from the weapons.

Both Downey and the film are complex: funny, yet edgy; action-packed, yet human. Even in the shadow of "The Dark Knight," it shines as one of the best films of the year.

As far as bonus features, the standard DVD ($34.99) has some extended/deleted scenes and a short preview for "Iron Man: The Animated Series," premiering in 2009 on Nicktoons. Spend the extra $5 for the two-disc "Ultimate Edition" ($39.99) or Blu-ray ($39.99). Both are filled with bonus material.

The nearly two-hour "I Am Iron Man" is a seven-part making-of documentary that takes viewers from pre- to post-production through meetings, rehearsals, on-location footage, production photos, storyboards, concept art, effects shots and interviews with director Jon Favreau and the cast and crew, including Downey, Jeff Bridges, Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard and executive producer Peter Billingsley (who is always worthy of note just so we can say he played young Ralphie from "A Christmas Story").

Favreau even details his 75-pound weight loss during filmming.

"The Invincible Iron Man" is a six-part history that starts with his origins ("I gave myself a dare," says creator Stan Lee, who modeled the character after Howard Hughes) and includes friends and foes. ("It was Cold War demonology," says writer Gerry Conway. "All foreigners were bad and Americans were good.")

Iron Man, by the way, also attracted more female fan mail than any other title at Marvel, Lee says. Women wanted "to mother him."

Also included: the nearly 30-minute feature "Wired: The Visual Effects of Iron Man"; Downey's screen tests; and "The Actor's Process," an intense rehearsal with Downey, Bridges and Favreau.

*In a career filled with odd characters, "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" (Sony, available Tuesday) may still take the title as Adam Sandler's oddest. The comedian plays an ex-Israeli counterterrorist agent who fakes his death and heads to New York City to become a hairdresser.

You can buy "Zohan" five ways. The original theatrical version and the one-disc extended version ($28.96 each) have commentaries, deleted scenes and 10 featurettes. The two-disc "Fully Loaded Extended Version" ($34.95) comes with all of that, plus a digital copy of the film and an additional five featurettes.

The Blu-ray set ($38.96) also has the rated and unrated versions of the film and "Translating the Zohan" graphic-in-picture track. There is also a version available on PSP ($24.94).

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Coming Tuesday

"Halloween: Collector's Edition" (Genius/Dimension), "The Happening" (Fox), "Joy Ride 2 Dead Ahead" (Fox), "The Memory Keeper's Daughter" (Sony Pictures), "The Note" (Sony), "Paranoid Park" (Genius), "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (Warner), "Speed Racer the Next Generation: The Fast Track" (Lionsgate), "Touch of Evil -- 50th Anniversary Edition" (Universal), "The Visitor" (Anchor Bay) and "Young Frankenstein" (Blu-ray, Fox).

TV: "30 Rock, Season 2" (Universal), "Keeping Up With the Kardashians: Season One" (Lionsgate), "Kimora: Life in the Fab Lane Season One" (Lionsgate), "Martin: The Complete Fifth Season" (HBO), "Midsomer Murders, Set 11" (Acorn Media Group), "Mister Roberts" (Acorn Media), "Munsters: The Complete Series" (Universal) and "Robot Chicken: Season Three" (Adult Swim).

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DVD Extra

THE SIMPSONS: THE COMPLETE ELEVENTH SEASON: Krusty the Clown is the face on the collectible packaging for this new set that has 22 episodes, an intro by creator Matt Groening, audio commentaries, original sketches, deleted scenes and a slew of featurettes. ($49.98, Fox. Available Tuesday.)
e-mail: truberto@buffnews.com

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