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The Machinist (Blu-Ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Confession time: I'd totally forgotten what happened to Christian Bale's Trevor Reznik in this sometimes brilliant puzzler from director Brad Anderson and writer Scott Kosar. I'm grateful that I blanked since I saw it initially, because I was able to experience the shocks anew.

Bale lost more than 60 pounds to play Trevor, an insomniac industrial worker suffering from increasing fits of paranoia. After the appearance of a strange man (John Sharian) at his worksite, accidents happen, and his co-workers seemingly turn against him. Trevor has lost something huge in the past, but the screenplay and Anderson refuse to let us know what this is. The conclusion comes out of nowhere and places The Machinist among great puzzler movies like Jacob's Ladder and Mulholland Dr.

Watching the film in high definition makes Bale's physicality all the more shocking. You can practically see his kidneys poking through his skin. Bale's performance is outstanding, and you can't help but feel like he took a few years off of his life due to his physical commitment. This transformation is shocking, even surpassing De Niro fattening up for Raging Bull.

Jennifer Jason Leigh brings no clichés to the could-be-clichéd role of a hooker with a heart of gold. Michael Ironside delivers some of his best onscreen work as a man who falls victim to the effects of Trevor's lack of sleep, and Aitana Sánchez-Gijón is enchanting as a friendly waitress.

There aren't many movies capable of knocking me out and blindsiding me twice. The Machinist is one of them.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The Blu-Ray disc contains Anderson's excellent commentary, which answered all of my questions regarding the movie's puzzles. The commentary and a featurette are holdovers from a prior release, but Paramount footed the bill for a couple of new extras: Manifesting the Machinist and The Machinist: Hiding in Plain Sight, both of which offer nice insight into the film's complexities. You also get eight deleted scenes—scenes that would've given away a lot had they been included in the original film.

A Bug's Life (Blu-Ray)





(OUT OF 10)

While this is one of Pixar's weaker efforts, this buggy tale looks tremendously good on Blu-Ray, and the movie is still decent. It's a testament to how great the folks at Pixar are: One of their worst films is still very good and worth watching.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Holdovers from previous editions are joined by new stuff like a filmmaker's roundtable and all-new animation based on material deleted from the original script.






(OUT OF 10)

There were a lot of delays and drama before the eventual release of this film to theaters: Studio meddling and re-cuts caused big delays; producer Harvey Weinstein reportedly took issue with a character having cancer and ordered the subplot removed; subsequent fan protests resulted in a return to the original plot, wherein a group of friends aim to steal a copy of Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace for their sick friend. Doctors say the friend will die of cancer before the film is released, and this inspires the mission.

While Fanboys might be a well-meaning love letter to geeks everywhere, the humor is caustically bad, and next to nothing in the movie works. Yes, Kristen Bell wears the Princess Leia bikini thing near the film's end, and for this, I am grateful. Besides that, there's very little to enjoy. The movie feels slapped together, and the performances are overwrought.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A commentary with cast and crew, webisodes and deleted scenes are among the features I don't care about.

True Blood: The Complete First Season (Blu-Ray)





(OUT OF 10)

I flipped by this show during its inaugural season on HBO. There is a great benefit to watching this vampire soap opera from the very beginning, since the first episode sets up the series; jumping in midway could cause confusion and lessen the impact.

Created by Alan Ball (the man responsible for Six Feet Under) and featuring big-league directors such as John Dahl and Michael Lehmann, it makes stuff like Buffy and Twilight look like kindergarten tea parties. Anna Paquin plays Sookie, a Louisiana waitress living among vampires who have recently emerged from their coffins and requested equal rights among the American populace. Synthetic blood has been concocted for vampires to survive; while its creation is supposed to prevent them from killing for food, not all vampires comply.

The show features heavy doses of sex and violence, so Twilight fans might want to keep their distance.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentaries by cast and crewmembers join interactive trivia to provide more than enough of a backdrop on the show.

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