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Broadcast News (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)


Watching this and seeing Holly Hunter, William Hurt and Albert Brooks a quarter of a century younger is a trip. (Their skin and hair is so smooth and silky!) Much credit goes to writer-director James L. Brooks for knowing where things were going in the world of network news.

The film, of course, came out before the Internet, and before cable channels rose to supreme prominence as news outlets. CNN was around (and was the only network to broadcast the Challenger disaster live in 1986), but Fox News was nearly a decade away from launching. When this film came out, ABC, NBC and CBS were the only major TV-news players, with cable networks lurking in the background.

James L. Brooks, who did some time working in network news (he was a writer for CBS News), seemed to have a feeling about the direction in which the business was going—and on top of being a pretty decent romantic-triangle movie, Broadcast News stands as a remarkable testament to the institution in its title.

Hunter, Hurt and Albert Brooks all got Oscar nominations, and they all deserved them. Hurt is still funny as the slightly dumb but extremely good-looking news anchor who rises up through the ranks despite no real formal training. Hunter used this film to show that she was an acting force to be reckoned with; her solitary crying spells are a thing of beauty. However, the performance by Albert Brooks is most notable; he provides the film with its comic and emotional cores as the not-as-good-looking-but-far-smarter reporter. Brooks is very funny here (his sweaty newscast remains a classic), and his angry outbursts upon being jilted by Hunter are extraordinary.

Jack Nicholson has a funny, uncredited role as the head anchor, a sort of Dan Rather type.

If anything, the film's futuristic ending comes up just a little short and feels like a copout—although the love triangle works out in a rather believable way.

I had forgotten how heavy and occasionally nasty (in a good way) this movie is. It certainly isn't lightweight entertainment.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A commentary from James L. Brooks, and a documentary on the different stages (TV, movies) of his career. Deleted scenes include a terrible alternate ending that would've been worse than the copout original.

Let Me In (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)


Fans of the Swedish vampire movie Let the Right One In can exhale: Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) has directed an American remake that is, in many ways, equal to the original.

Chloe Moretz plays Abby, a forever-12-year-old bloodsucker living in a rundown apartment with her guardian/slave (Richard Jenkins), and they are both excellent. It helps that Kodi Smit-McPhee is Moretz's equal as a young boy who is bullied at school and fascinated with his new, creepy neighbor.

Reeves retains much of the original's plot points, and creates a similar sad and tragic vibe. He also brings some of his own ideas to the proceedings, and they work, for the most part. Unlike the original, it is also very gory. Moretz, who played Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass, is certainly one of the breakout stars of 2010.

For my money, the original is a little better, if only because the kid playing the bullied boy was so moving. This isn't to take away from the fine work of Smit-McPhee (who nailed his part in The Road). He's very good ... but Kåre Hedebrant's performance was something amazing.

Like the Swedish film, the American version only hints at a major element of the novel upon which is based—the fact that the young vampire girl is, in fact, a castrated boy.

While it's a remake, the film manages to be one of the more original American-made horror films of the last decade. Go figure.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Reeves provides an absorbing commentary, and there is some decent making-of stuff, including a feature dedicated to the film's terrifying car crash. You also get deleted scenes and a neat little comic book that's part of a prequel story.

Secretariat (Blu-ray + DVD Combo)





(OUT OF 10)


I give this movie about the amazing horse a mildly passing grade because of the fine acting. Diane Lane is enjoyable as Penny Chenery, the horse's owner, and John Malkovich is great as the trainer. Director Randall Wallace does a good job with the race scenes, but he produces cinematic Ambien when it comes to Chenery's family life. Dylan Walsh is a complete washout as the stereotypical husband.

The movie stops dead in its tracks whenever it goes inside the Chenery household, which is too bad. Had it been more on target with the family stuff, the film could've been something more worthwhile.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Wallace does a commentary; there are also deleted scenes, documentaries on the history of Secretariat and an interview with the real Chenery.

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