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The State: The Complete Series





(OUT OF 10)

After many delays, the sketch-comedy show that started it all for the folks who would give us Stella, Reno 911! and Wet Hot American Summer finally comes to DVD—and it's worth the wait. When this show originally aired on MTV, I had no damn time to watch it. With this package, I'm seeing a lot of the material for the first time, and it's a blast.

It's surprising how much weirdness this troupe got away with. Standouts include Joe Lo Truglio as a slightly intelligent, rage-filled high school jock searching for the correct word to taunt a classmate. The sketch features Ken Marino eating protein powder straight from the container, and it's a beautiful thing. Lo Truglio has always impressed me in his small film appearances, and seeing his work on this show makes me an even bigger fan. The man deserves his own movie!

There is, of course, Michael Showalter's brilliant Doug, the rebellious teen who can't seem to irritate authority figures, no matter how hard he tries. Michael Ian Black and David Wain (see Bob Grimm's interview with Wain), massive contributors to the show, went on to join Showalter in Stella, arguably the best thing to come out of The State.

Kerri Kenney, the lone woman in the group, is pretty much the Carol Cleveland (Monty Python's lone woman) of The State, but with 1,000 times more talent. She's gone on to do some great, sort of scary work as Deputy Trudy Wiegel on Reno 911! Marino, one of the busiest members of The State, can be seen on the current Starz comedy series Party Down.

The DVDs do not contain a lot of the music that ran on the original show. Songs by big bands like Smashing Pumpkins were not licensed for the DVD, so original State composer Craig Wedren got the chance to go back and provide some new music for old sketches. I'm happy to report that Wedren comes through nicely, so don't sweat the changes.

In many ways, The State is one of the more important American comedy series ever produced. While Mr. Show was totally brilliant, its members have not gone on to the critical and commercial success that members of The State have—and something tells me the likes of Wain, Showalter, Black and Marino are just getting started.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The package gives you all four seasons of the show, plus a bonus disc containing the pilot episode, outtakes, unaired sketches and bloopers. There are a whole lot of commentaries and unaired sketches, each boasting a different combination of cast members.

Two Lovers (Blu-Ray)





(OUT OF 10)

One thing is certain: Joaquin Phoenix, whether or not he's goofing around with this recent stuff about leaving the acting trade for music, distracted people from the greatness of his efforts in this film. Director James Gray and co-star Gwyneth Paltrow should be really pissed at the guy.

Phoenix plays Leonard, a Brooklyn man living with his parents after the disintegration of his latest relationship. He works at his dad's dry-cleaning business, and his parents are trying to fix him up with a nice young lady (Vinessa Shaw); Leonard is intrigued. Then, Michelle (Paltrow), a beautiful but troubled woman, moves in next door, and Leonard starts having problems.

Phoenix is good at playing wounded, awkward souls, and this is among his best work. The same can be said for Paltrow, who just keeps getting better with each role. They make you care for Leonard and Michelle, no matter how screwed up they are ... and they are pretty screwed up.

Gray has made a great, complicated love story that is also very funny. It deserved more attention, but the Phoenix antics did plenty to discourage that. Take my word for it: This one is very much worth renting and is destined for year-end top 10 lists.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A couple of interesting deleted scenes worth checking out, and a commentary from Gray.

Eastbound and Down: The Complete First Season





(OUT OF 10)

The very funny Danny McBride is constantly great in this HBO series about a washed-up baseball star (seemingly modeled after John Rocker) who moves in with his brother and teaches gym at a local school. Lots of great talent is involved, including directors David Gordon Green and Adam McKay. Will Ferrell shows up in a couple of episodes as an asshole car dealer, and he, not surprisingly, is extremely funny.

Highlights include an episode in which Kenny faces off with his baseball nemesis (Craig Robinson) at Ferrell's car lot, leading to an incident which culminates in a major eye injury and a nice usage of Kenny Rogers music.

There are only six episodes, but HBO has renewed the show for a second season. That's a very good thing.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Great stuff, including car commercials from Ferrell, commentaries, deleted scenes and outtakes.

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