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Mary Poppins: 45th Anniversary Edition

Movie A
Special Features B+
DVD Geek Factor 8 (out of 10)

Mary Poppins freaked me out when I first saw it. I don't know exactly how old I was, but my age was somewhere in the single digits, and I was not amused. I thought Mary was some kind of ghost or monster who could make things move, and the concept of somebody flying around with an umbrella made no sense to my little-boy brain. That fake "Scary Mary" trailer you can find on YouTube sums up my feelings back then about Poppins fairly well.

Seriously: It's pretty creepy that a whole crowd of prospective nannies gets blown away in the wind so that Mary can get the job. Where'd they go? Surely, all of them didn't survive being windblown. That makes her a murderer! And what about that moment when her reflection in a mirror goes independent and finishes a song while Poppins observes? She must be a witch!

I do recall liking Dick Van Dyke (he broke the fourth wall, and I had never seen that in a movie before; he was a badass!), and some of the tunes were quite catchy and beautiful.

As time went on, I started liking the movie a lot. The little kids were funny as hell; the chimney-sweep sequence was awesome; and Julie Andrews gradually went from being a creepy ghost woman to sort of hot.

There's also stuff little kids just won't pick up on, including the women's suffrage theme, a pretty heavy element to put in a kids' movie. Anyway, this is an enduring classic, and an awesome message movie for any kid getting prepped for a baby sitter. I think I behaved when my parents were away, because I didn't want some prim-and-proper lady to fly in with an umbrella and blow my stuff all over the place.

Special Features: Lots of featurettes go behind the scenes of the film, and there is some stuff about the current Broadway production, too. There's a deleted song and a nice Andrews/Van Dyke reunion, which is about as charming as things get.

My Name Is Bruce

Movie B-
Specials Features B
DVD Geek Factor 6 (out of 10)

B-movie legend Bruce Campbell directs himself in this low-budget, goofy take on his own celebrity and movie persona. Some could see this as a vanity project, but because the humor is so self-deprecating (Campbell portrays himself as a major goofball), the concept works just fine.

An ancient (and rather cheap-looking) Chinese warrior, the patron saint of bean curds, has been set loose in the western town of Gold Lick, and he's chopping off the heads of its 399 residents. A die-hard Bruce Campbell fan decides that the city needs him (actually, they have the real Bruce confused with his Evil Dead alter ego, Ash) to save them, and the man is kidnapped from his latest production, the epic Cave Aliens 2. At first, Campbell thinks it's just another film job, but when he finds out that the threat is real, he must either spring into action or run away.

Campbell shot the movie on his own property in Oregon, building a set largely out of donated wood. It's clear from the onset that studios didn't get behind the concept with buckets of cash, but Campbell's onscreen charm is worth millions, and for fans of The Chin, it's a lot of fun.

If there's a sequel, let's hope that somebody gives him a couple more bucks for the moviemaking process so he can hit The Home Depot rather than picking up people's wood scraps in their driveways for set faces. That had to be rough.

Special Features: Campbell always does great commentaries, and there's a good one on this disc. You also get a trailer for Cave Aliens 2, and some fun making-of stuff.

Zodiac: The Director's Cut (Blu-Ray)

Movie A-
Special Features A-
DVD Geek Factor 9 (out of 10)

Director David Fincher is currently in the running for an Oscar for his wonderful The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, a gentle fable with a hint of darkness. This film about the Zodiac killer is actually about as dark as movies get. Examining the failed investigation into the famous letter-writing murderer, it's a stunning example of how, no matter how intense and high-tech the process is, the killer often gets away.

As with all of his movies, every frame of this film has that Fincher stamp of quality. The man makes movies that are as close to perfect-looking as the medium can get. While Zodiac had already been released on the now-defunct HD-DVD format, this Blu-Ray will be most folks' first exploration of the film in high-def.

Special Features: Be prepared to kill a lot of hours on this one. There are two commentaries, including a fascinating one by Fincher and a fun one with cast (Robert Downey Jr., Jake Gyllenhaal) and crew; both are worth taking in. You'll also get plenty of behind-the-scenes and investigative documentaries in the two-disc set.