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The Seventh Seal





(OUT OF 10)

A lot of people who think they've seen this movie haven't; instead, they've seen parodies and homages. As far as home video goes, you haven't really seen this film until you've watched this gorgeous Blu-Ray version.

Blu-Ray can make movies look brand-new, and Ingmar Bergman's meditation on death and faith looks like it was shot yesterday. Max von Sydow stars as a knight returning from the Crusades. He's hanging out on a beach when a black-cloaked Death shows up and implies that it is time to go. The knight has some unfinished business, so he challenges Death to a chess match and goes on a trek through a plague-infested land.

Even though the film has an inarguably dark subject, Bergman manages to mix in humor. Death can be a little clumsy and pretentious, and seeing this movie again after so many years, I can say that William Sadler's goofy portrayal of Death in Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey was more right-on than I originally thought.

This film was shot in 1957, it's fair to say nothing looked like it before, and nothing has since. Many directors (including Woody Allen) have tried to borrow from Bergman's style, but it always comes off as cheap copycatting. The guy was in a category all by himself. It's also amazing that von Sydow already looked old in 1957, yet he kind of looks the same today. He prematurely aged and then just stopped.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A commentary by a Bergman scholar, some interviews with Bergman (including an introduction to the film) and a video journey through the many films of Bergman's career. There's also a short Woody Allen video (produced for TNT) during which he discusses the director's technique and its impact on his life.

Waltz With Bashir





(OUT OF 10)

One of the more interesting animated films you are likely to see, Bashir combines a surreal animation technique with some actual recounts of the Sabra and Shatila massacre in 1982.

The tragedy saw an undetermined amount of Palestinian refugees shot to death by Phalangist militia members while Israeli soldiers camped nearby. Writer/director Ari Folman, who was one of the Israeli soldiers, tries to remember the massacre through interviews with friends and a visit to a psychologist. Actual interview audio is visualized through arresting animation that is sometimes nightmarish.

The film's only real flaw is that it is too short and ends suddenly. Folman's own blurred memory is a statement on how some of the horrifying events of the 1982 Lebanon war have faded from memory. This film is a beautiful-looking yet appropriately unpleasant reminder.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A director commentary with Folman, and a making-of documentary.

Reno 911!: The Complete Sixth Season (Uncensored)





(OUT OF 10)

While this show can be inconsistent, the sixth season saw the series hit a comedic high note. Some regular characters got killed at a taco stand at the end of season five (including Wendi McLendon-Covey's Clemmy), and while that's somewhat sad, it paved the way for the show to bring in some new blood.

Joe Lo Truglio (another former member of The State) and Ian Roberts (of the Upright Citizens Brigade) join the cast, and this is a good thing. The mega-talented Lo Truglio plays Deputy Rizzo, a dirty cop who commandeers an open-topped Reno tour bus (I don't think there is such a thing) to chase down a criminal. Roberts plays the ill-tempered Sergeant Declan, who eats a lot of fried foods and challenges the authority of Lt. Jim Dangle (Thomas Lennon).

The two new additions are genius comic actors, and they bring some nice new energy to the proceedings. Highlights include Reno's finest getting moved to a seafood restaurant while asbestos is removed from their station. Asbestos constituted nearly 80 percent of the station, and the cafeteria trays were made of asbestos. The masks that they were given to protect them from asbestos were also made of asbestos.

Another great episode features the cops watching old video footage of themselves, complete with really bad wigs. Apparently, Deputy Trudy Wiegel (Kerri Kenney) was dead for 14 minutes and revived by Dangle, resulting in her strange mental state. (Everyone agrees that they shouldn't have brought her back.) I also love the public-service announcements informing us not to abuse seniors or steal their drugs, because none of them will get you high.

Watching the show uncensored is a much better experience than catching it bleeped on Comedy Central. These guys curse like sailors, and it's hilarious.

After the box-office flop of the 2007 movie, it looks like the crew got back to basics with this season.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Extended outtakes and commentaries are all quality stuff. It's been a great couple of weeks for fans of The State, with the release of this season and The State's complete series on DVD.

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