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The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (Blu-ray)

WARNER

MOVIE A

SPECIAL FEATURES 9

DVD GEEK FACTOR 8.75

(OUT OF 10)

It had been a little while since I sat down to watch this one, and seeing it on Blu-Ray provided the best Oz viewing experience I've had to date.

While Judy Garland's colorful visit to the Wonderful Land of Oz is enchanting, I've always been most impressed by the black-and-white prologue. That twister scene is remarkable, a sterling example of early movie magic that's as scary today as it was the first time I saw it. Dorothy opening the door and revealing the Technicolor wonder of Munchkin Land is one of the all-time-great cinematic transitions.

Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Bert Lahr are permanently endearing as the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. And no movie canine has ever topped Toto. I still love how the little Cairn terrier kept presenting her paw during the close of Garland's "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" like she was expecting a treat. (Toto was played by a female dog named Terry.)

If there's one drawback to the increasing picture clarity, it's that the indoor soundstages in Oz have become more and more obvious. Watching the film through the dull haze of a crappy VHS tape or on broadcast TV blurred the background a bit, which actually made things more surreal. Now, it's quite obvious the settings are manmade and indoor. You can see the seams in some of the background paintings.

That's a minor quibble ... Oz is still one of the all-time-great film fantasies.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The edition comes in an emerald-green box, complete with a 52-page picture book, a collector's watch and reproductions of the original 1939 campaign book and budget sheet. There are more than 16 hours of supplements, including features from past editions. The three-disc set includes an excellent commentary featuring archive interviews with Ray Bolger and Jack Haley, early screen adaptations of Oz, the TV movie special The Dreamer of Oz starring John Ritter, and an entire disc dedicated to MGM: When the Lion Roars, a six-hour documentary about the legendary studio.


The Hannibal Lecter Collection (Blu-Ray)

20TH CENTURY FOX

MOVIES SEE REVIEW

SPECIAL FEATURES B+ FOR LAMBS; F FOR OTHER FILMS

DVD GEEK FACTOR 7

(OUT OF 10)

This three-disc set contains Michael Mann's Manhunter, on Blu-Ray for the first time. It also includes the already-released The Silence of the Lambs Blu-Ray, and its so-so sequel, Hannibal, also on American Blu-Ray for the first time. It does not contain Red Dragon, which was essentially a remake of Manhunter, or the terrible Hannibal Rising.

The best of the trio is, of course, Lambs, but Manhunter certainly has its virtues. Brian Cox has a small role as Hannibal the Cannibal, only hinting at the deranged menace Anthony Hopkins would later portray in the role. Thomas Harris' novel Hannibal, his follow-up to Lambs, was terrible, but director Ridley Scott almost made a decent movie out of it. Lambs was grounded in reality, but Hannibal, while good-looking, was a little too outrageous.

Movie grades: Manhunter (B), Silence of the Lambs (A), Hannibal (C+).

SPECIAL FEATURES: Lambs is just a repackaging of a prior Blu-Ray edition, containing a decent trivia track and archive documentaries. Manhunter and Hannibal come to Blu-Ray with nothing as far as special features are concerned. I would've liked to see a better effort for those films.


Shaun of the Dead (Blu-Ray)

UNIVERSAL

MOVIE A

SPECIAL FEATURES A-

DVD GEEK FACTOR 9

(OUT OF 10)

The already-classic Simon Pegg horror comedy comes to Blu-Ray just in time for the release of Zombieland. Good luck to anyone who wants to try to top this gem's blend of classic horror gore and British comedy. With George Romero stuck making pale imitations of his classic zombie films, this obvious homage to Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead stands as the best zombie film since Romero's Dawn.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Blu-Ray exclusive features include the U-Control Zomb-O-Meter, which features pop-up trivia and storyboards while you watch the film. There are four commentaries, video diaries, deleted scenes, outtakes and more.


Requiem for a Dream (Blu-Ray)

WARNER

MOVIE A

SPECIAL FEATURES B+

DVD GEEK FACTOR 8

(OUT OF 10)

Nothing says, "Don't do drugs, kids!" like this nightmarish offering from director Darren Aronofsky. Ellen Burstyn deserved an Oscar for her portrayal of a long-suffering mother who gets strung out on diet pills. (She lost to Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich.) Jared Leto, Marlon Wayans and Jennifer Connelly are all top-notch as heroin junkies, each of them getting equal treatment in Aronofsky's film. The climax of the movie stands as one of the more horrific film sequences of the 21st century.

SPECIAL FEATURES: An Aronofsky commentary (and a separate commentary from cinematographer Matthew Libatique), a making-of doc, deleted scenes and more.

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