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Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy

UNIVERSAL

MOVIES: SEE BELOW

SPECIAL FEATURES A

BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 9.5 (OUT OF 10)

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The classic time-traveling trilogy gets physically rejuvenated with its Blu-ray release, a presentation so crisp it looks like it was made yesterday.

The original remains one of the most enjoyable movies ever made, a film so inventive it boggled the mind and propelled the already popular Michael J. Fox to superstardom. But don't discount Back to the Future Part II, a movie that received a lot of critical pummeling upon its initial release, but ranks on my personal list of great sequels. Fox's Marty McFly not only journeys into the future, but back into the original film, creating the sensation that you are getting two distinct films in one sitting. Yes, it is dark at times, but it is perhaps the most ingenious entry in the series.

Back to the Future Part III, where Marty and Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) travel back to the Old West, is perhaps the weakest of the three, but still a pretty darned good Western in its own right.

Looking back, it's a very impressive filmmaking feat that director Robert Zemeckis and his team pulled off. He made three films that technically take place within days of each other, and each of them has a distinct feel. When I got this set, I watched all of the films again, and it felt like I was watching them for the first time ... the mark of a great series. Movies: Back to Future (A), Back to The Future Part II (A-), Back to the Future Part III (B).

SPECIAL FEATURES: Loaded with features old and new. On top of the archived features from previous editions (making-of featurettes, commentaries, outtakes) you get a brand-new retrospective documentary. Most amazing is the brief viewing of Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly. Stoltz was dismissed five weeks into filming in favor of Fox, and this set offers some of that aborted footage for the very first time.


Leaves of Grass

FIRST LOOK

MOVIE B-

SPECIAL FEATURES B-

DVD GEEK FACTOR 6

(OUT OF 10)

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One would think that a film where Edward Norton expertly plays identical twin brothers would get itself a semi-decent limited release before hitting video, but such was not the case for Tim Blake Nelson's eccentric and funny little flick. It got a couple of film festival screenings, garnering a four-star review from Roger Ebert, and now is available for your home consumption.

Norton plays two brothers, one a respected academic and the other a pioneering pot grower in Oklahoma. When the pot grower gets into trouble, he tricks the professor into returning to his home town, much to the professor's chagrin. Of course, there's a hot girl (Keri Russell) there, and he hasn't tasted weed in quite some time, so the professor sticks around longer than expected, long enough to see some serious criminal stuff go down.

As with the recent The Social Network, this movie does a nice job putting the same actor in two places within a film frame. While Network used two bodies with the same face grafted onto one of them, we are seeing all of Norton as two characters. He does a great job with his characterizations, creating two people who are very different, yet believable as brothers.

The film itself is a little sleepy at times, and never soars to great heights, but Nelson (who also wrote and co-stars) succeeds in putting forth a likable-enough entertainment. It's a shame that Norton busted his ass in two parts and most likely won't get any Oscar consideration to show for it.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Nelson and Norton provide a commentary, and there's a mediocre behind-the-scenes doc.


Grindhouse (Blu-ray)

VIVENDI

MOVIE A-

SPECIAL FEATURES B+

BLU-RAY GEEK FACTOR 8

(OUT OF 10)

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Finally, we get these films in their original format, instead of the disgraceful split into two entities. Sure, splitting Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror from Tarantino's Death Proof allowed for extended editions, but I truly enjoyed getting them in one big gulp during the Grindhouse theatrical run, replete with silly fake trailers and intermissions.

It was three years ago when the two directors and the Weinstein brothers thought the public would appreciate two films for the price of one, with such films purposely distressed and dirtied up to look like some of the grindhouse pictures from the '70s. It was a commercial bomb in theaters, and the films were subsequently separated for home video release.

So it's all the more surprising that somebody is willing to foot the bill to once again conjoin the films into a single entertainment experience. You get the Machete trailer before Rodriguez's disgusting zombie epic, and the classic Thanksgiving and Don't trailers before Tarantino's Kurt Russell hotrod nightmare. Nice!

Sorry ... it's only available in Blu-ray.

SPECIAL FEATURES: You get the same features you got on your original Planet Terror DVD, and an extra disc of all-new features, including a Rodriguez Cooking School, and some making-of featurettes for the films and fake trailers.

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