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Spartacus (Blu-ray)




(OUT OF 10)

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Stanley Kubrick's gladiator epic gets a stunning Blu-ray release, and Kirk Douglas' amazing cleft in his chin has never been this vivid. Good lord, you could set up camp in that thing.

This is the fully restored, uncut version. Spartacus is perhaps the most "Hollywood" of Kubrick's films, but it still has enough innuendo and sly humor to feel decidedly Kubrick. Douglas was in his 40s when he filmed it, and was nothing short of a physical marvel. The recently deceased Jean Simmons, who played the love interest, will always be one of the more beautiful actresses to grace the screen, and Laurence Olivier is great fun as an evil Roman ruler.

If you like gladiator movies, this is still ruler of them all.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Some deleted scenes and archival stuff. It's a bit lacking when it comes to the supplements.






(OUT OF 10)

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Two English schoolchildren (Jenny Agutter and Luc Roeg) get lost in the Australian outback and nearly die. They are saved by an Aborigine boy (David Gulpilil) who is on a walkabout, his culture's right of passage for young men. His requirement to hunt and live off the land comes in mighty handy for the two children, who had ventured into the outback with nothing but a half-full picnic basket.

Director Nicolas Roeg—who also did the frightening Don't Look Now and the bizarre Performance, which starred Mick Jagger—filmed this entirely on location, making it all the more remarkable. Agutter, who would go on to star in such films as Logan's Run and An American Werewolf in London, gives an endearingly natural performance, as does Luc Roeg, the director's son.

You might recognize Gulpilil, whose wonderful face has shown up in many movies, including Crocodile Dundee and Rabbit-Proof Fence. This was his acting debut, and his work here is both joyful and heartbreaking.

SPECIAL FEATURES: This is Criterion's second go-around with the movie. It's a two-disc set (also available on Blu-ray) featuring a great commentary with Nicolas Roeg and Agutter. You also get interviews with Agutter and Luc Roeg, a documentary on Gulpilil and a booklet.

David Cross: Bigger and Blackerer





(OUT OF 10)

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David Cross is still funnier than most comedians, even when he's not totally killing it. Therefore, I give this a very high grade, even if it is his weakest commercially released set to date.

Cross beats up on such topics as organic food, heroin use, universal health care, Obama haters and accidentally pooping his pants in public. While describing himself as an older man trying to take a crap, he says the following: "It sounds like a junior high school band warming up. It sounds like a person with cerebral palsy trying to unload drums from a van." (It's much funnier when he says it.)

Say this for Cross: He's as fearless as they come. It's actually too bad he doesn't hate Obama as much as George W. Bush, because his rants about the previous president are classic. Now he sort of defends Obama, which isn't nearly as fun.

There is also a CD of Bigger and Blackerer, and both the CD and DVD contain exclusive material.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Numerous segments that didn't make the main show, and a couple of bits from a previous tour.

True Blood: The Complete Second Season (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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I thought this show was crazy in its first season—but it was just a warm-up for the second season.

If you hate Twilight but generally love vampire stuff, this is your show. Sookie and Vampire Bill (Anna Paquin and Stephen Moyer) must deal with lunatic entities like Maryann Forrester (Michelle Forbes), a sort of demon lady who makes the town of Bon Temps partake in sick orgies. Actually, the show sort of drifts into porn territory with some of its sex scenes—so, parents, make sure you are blocking HBO at night!

Also much fun is Jason (Ryan Kwanten) and his involvement in a vampire-hating organization that reminded me of the weird Baptist church I attended in my youth. Evan Rachel Wood makes a tantalizing appearance as a queen vampire who likes board games.

If you missed Season 2, rent or purchase this sucker, and get caught up. Season 3 of True Blood premieres Sunday, June 13.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A feature called "Character Perspectives" has the cast members talking about their roles in the show, which they also get to do during the seven audio commentaries. (Five episodes go without commentary.) There's also an interactive feature that updates you with anti- and pro-vampire info throughout the episodes—to help you decide whether you hate or love vampires.

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