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The Cove





(OUT OF 10)

This is a brutal documentary about the slaughter of dolphins in the Japanese town of Taiji. Richard O'Barry, the man who helped champion the captivity of dolphins in the '60s by capturing and training animals for Flipper, has changed his mind—in a big way—about keeping the animals in captivity. He goes to Taiji, and despite major opposition from the government and fishermen, gets filmed footage of the torturous deaths the dolphins suffer in a cove on the Japanese coast.

It's horrifying, and it appears little is being done to stop it. As the film points out, Taiji is the capture spot for many of the dolphins that we see in marine-park shows and controlled "swimming with dolphins" parks. It's the rejects that are being slaughtered. This is a well-made and very thorough documentary that will make you think twice about going to SeaWorld again.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes, audio commentary and a scary documentary about mercury poisoning.

Family Guy Presents: Something, Something, Something, Dark Side





(OUT OF 10)

Seth MacFarlane and friends continue having fun with the Star Wars legacy as they take on The Empire Strikes Back. True Star Wars fans will dig the obscure references and humor, while those unfamiliar with the franchise might be a little alienated.

Highlights include the Cookie Monster replacing the snow creature that kidnaps Luke in the film's beginning moments. I also liked a bit in which a character voiced by Seth Green talks about the virtues of Robot Chicken's Star Wars send-up, made funnier by the fact that Green is the creator of Robot Chicken.

It appears that they are already at work on a spoof of Jedi, so the hits should keep coming.

SPECIAL FEATURES: An audio commentary with MacFarlane, Green and others. You also get a sneak peak at the next Star Wars-spoof chapter, and a table read for this one.

District 9





(OUT OF 10)

This was a good year for sci-fi, thanks to Star Trek, Moon and this interesting piece of work from producer Peter Jackson and friends. Writer-director Neill Blomkamp delivers a different kind of alien movie, in which the visitors—in this case, grasshopper-looking beings nicknamed "prawns"—are rescued from their stalled spaceship and then ostracized by the human race.

They are put into internment camps, and when a human representative (Sharlto Copley) attempts to relocate them to a new tent city, all hell breaks loose. The movie combines some good action with its big thoughts, and Copley is funny, scary, sad and a whole lot of other things. Jackson's Weta Workshop is responsible for the exemplary alien effects.

It's worth noting that this is the first official acting project of any kind for Copley other than the short film Alive in Joburg, upon which this film is based. Copley makes one of the better acting debuts of 2009, mixing a nice blend of terror and comedy.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A writer-director commentary, as well as extensive interviews with Blomkamp that go in depth about the evolution of the project. There's lots of behind-the-scenes stuff, deleted scenes and more.

Paranormal Activity





(OUT OF 10)

This is probably the most overrated and overhyped movie of 2009, although it certainly has its moments. It was made on a pittance, and it shows in the film quality and special effects. This film, about demon possession, relies on stuff like doors slamming and sheets moving to scare the viewer. The first time you see a sheet moving by itself, it's pretty scary. Not so much the 10th time.

I do have to give props to the ending. The ending scared the piss out of me and caught me off-guard. It also looks like the only part of the film that might've cost a little money.

There's talk of a sequel, and one must worry that this franchise could follow the route of that other well-known, no-cost horror flick, The Blair Witch Project. I say they should simply replay the whole film and digitally insert the demon that is moving the sheets and pushing people around. Just spend about $50 million on a special-effects CGI monster, and don't change anything else. It would make a ton of money!

OK, maybe not.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Not a lot, which is a surprise, considering that a making-of doc chronicling the story of this film and its road to success almost seems mandatory. You do get the fabled alternate ending; it is still creepy, but not as good as the one they ultimately went with. I've actually seen a third ending to the movie, which is better than the alternate ending included here, but still not better than the one seen in theaters. OK, I'll stop now.

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