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Generation Kill (Blu-Ray)

HBO

SERIES A-

SPECIAL FEATURES A-

DVD GEEK FACTOR 9

(OUT OF 10)

This miniseries about the early days of the Iraq war sort of snuck in under my radar. I didn't catch a single episode of this when it aired on HBO; I only saw a few snippets, including a scene in which an American soldier gets Chef Boyardee all over his face.

Based on the book and Rolling Stone articles written by Evan Wright, it is a fascinating, brutal depiction of what Marines—and Iraqi civilians—went through when American soldiers rolled into Baghdad in 2003. Wright was an embedded journalist traveling with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, among the first to enter the city, not in tanks, but in crowded Humvees.

Lee Tergesen plays Wright, and a host of great actors play the actual soldiers who carried out the mission. The soldiers range from valiant, honorable men to crazed idiots who shoot at shepherds and their camels. No doubt: Every army has its share of psychos. Heck, every faction of life where there are more than 20 people hanging around probably has a psycho or two included. That's just human nature.

Generation Kill isn't afraid to show that the modern Marines have their share of unstable participants among the good soldiers. Take Capt. Dave "Captain America" McGraw, who has no problem leading his men out to map a minefield at night, and who won't hesitate to bayonet a prisoner of war. Incidentally, McGraw is played by Eric Nenninger, who played an insecure military-school student on Malcolm in the Middle. McGraw is like his Malcolm character all grown up.

It's worth noting that one of the standout characters, Sgt. Rudy Reyes, plays himself in an impressive debut. Other notables include James Ransone as Cpl. Josh Ray Person, who drives one of the Humvees while sleep-deprived and jacked on Ripped Fuel. Alexander Skarsgård is stellar as Sgt. Brad "Iceman" Colbert, an admirable commander who gives an order with grave consequences.

The series doesn't end with a triumphant conquering of Iraq. It ends with soldiers getting a bad taste in their mouths while watching a film of their experiences put together by one of their comrades. It's a lasting image in what turns out to be a truly important war series.

SPECIAL FEATURES: In case you are left wondering whether or not the series goes overboard, some actual soldiers portrayed sit down with Wright for an interview. The consensus is that the series did a decent job of depicting their experiences. One soldier actually confesses to mixing up the movie with reality, because they are so much alike. There are also some commentaries, a making-of documentary and a video diary put together by one of the actors.


The Graduate (Blu-Ray)

MGM

MOVIE A+

SPECIAL FEATURES A

DVD GEEK FACTOR 10

(OUT OF 10)

I wrote about this movie when the 40th anniversary edition came out about two years ago. It has been, and will remain, one of my favorite movies of all time. This film made Dustin Hoffman a star, took Simon and Garfunkel to new heights, and helped change the path of American cinema.

With a purchase of the Blu-Ray edition, you also get a standard-DVD copy of the film. The bonus is that you don't just get the standard-DVD edition; you also get all of the special features that came with the 40th anniversary edition. The kicker: $19.99 at Best Buy. Prices are starting to stabilize with the Blu-Ray format. If you've been holding out because of the higher disc prices, go ahead and dive in. If you are holding out on Blu-Ray because the players themselves are too costly, that's starting to change as well.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The standard DVD contains the awesome Dustin Hoffman-Katharine Ross commentary that I went nuts for two years ago. It remains one of the best commentaries ever put on a DVD. There are also the excellent documentaries that made the standard DVD a must-have. Plus, you get a Blu-Ray copy of the film to boot. Sweet!


Big (Blu-Ray)

FOX

MOVIE B+

SPECIAL FEATURES B

DVD GEEK FACTOR 7

(OUT OF 10)

This film rocketed Tom Hanks to stardom in much the same way that The Graduate turned Hoffman into a star. Hanks had been kicking around, with some moderate success at the movies and on TV, but his turn as Josh Baskin, a boy who gets his wish to be "big," established him as a major player. That status propelled him through a few duds (The Bonfire of the Vanities ... yeesh) until '93, when he won an Oscar for Philadelphia.

I hadn't seen the movie in some time, and watching it on Blu-Ray is a treat. It remains the best of all those age-switching movies, mainly due to Hanks' commitment to the role. He takes the silliness of the premise seriously, and achieves something both funny and moving.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A theatrical version and an extended cut are both contained on the disc, as are deleted scenes and some decent featurettes on the film.

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