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Kick-Ass (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack + Digital Copy)





(OUT OF 10)

One of the year's better films gets an astonishingly good treatment on Blu-ray. If you don't have a Blu-ray player yet, get this package anyway, because it comes with a DVD version of the film, too. (You also get a digital copy, should you, say, want to watch movies on your cellular phone, something I could care less about.)

The film tells the story of Dave (Aaron Johnson), a nerdy high school kid who takes it upon himself to become a vigilante superhero after ordering a rather ridiculous costume in the mail. He eventually joins forces with other underground vigilantes to do battle with crime lord Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong).

Director Matthew Vaughn, who also helmed the impressive and enchanting Stardust, not only made a great superhero film here; he made an excellent dark comedy, too. The moment when Nicolas Cage's Big Daddy and Chloe Moretz's Hit-Girl are introduced stands as one of my favorite movie moments of the year. It's as twisted as movie-making gets, and God bless Vaughn for daring to put something like it on film.

Speaking of Moretz, she has one of the year's great breakout performances as Hit-Girl, as she convincingly dispatches bad guys much older and bigger than her. Moretz actually learned how to do some nice martial-arts and knife work in the film; I'm convinced she could kick the ass of most people she meets.

Cage also puts forth an impressive performance. The actor has lost himself in a lot of eccentric roles and action movies lately, making it easy to forget how incredibly funny he can be.

Sequels are planned, but have not yet gotten the green light, because this wasn't a runaway box-office hit—so buy the Blu-rays and DVDs, please because I want more Kick-Ass movies.

SPECIAL FEATURES: This Blu-ray immediately goes onto my list of favorites, as far as the features are concerned. Ass-Kicking Bonus View Mode is a spectacularly produced feature, with Vaughn giving video commentary as the movie plays out either in his studio, or in a nice picture-within-picture presentation. The Mode features behind-the-scenes footage and interviews. You also get Vaughn's commentary with just the audio; features on the comic on which the film was based; a making-of documentary; and more.

Diary of a Wimpy Kid (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

This goofy look at a picked-on kid's entrance into middle school has plenty of charm and bizarre humor—enough to put it over the top, even though the film gets a little too gross and annoying at times.

Zachary Gordon plays Greg, a short kid who wants to rank among the class favorites at his junior high. He joins the wrestling team and tries out for the school play, all while being terrorized by neighborhood kids and big-brother Rodrick (Devon Bostick). The comedy is often gross-out in nature, but there are some wonderfully surreal moments, including one featuring group of kids auditioning for The Wizard of Oz and absolutely murdering "Total Eclipse of the Heart."

Steve Zahn is flat-out funny as Greg's dad, and Chloe Moretz (Hit-Girl!) is a nice presence as the junior high kid who is wiser than everybody else. Diary of a Wimpy Kid is an overall good time, and kids will love it.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Some pretty good deleted scenes, and that's all.

Louie Bluie





(OUT OF 10)

Terry Zwigoff, maker of the fantastic Crumb (covered in this space last week), made this little documentary in 1985, studying the life of Howard "Louie Bluie" Armstrong, an African-American musician and artist.

Zwigoff utilizes interview footage with the then-still-living Armstrong (he passed away in 2003) and archival photos and film to tell the story of the great string musician. He played guitar, mandolin and fiddle as a backing musician and in his band The Tennessee Chocolate Drops, which also featured his brother Roland. His musical career started in the 1920s and went well beyond this film, including a solo album in 1995.

The film also offers some awesome impromptu musical performances in living rooms and kitchens. The music is great, and the conversation and stories provided by Armstrong are priceless. We also get to see a lot of Armstrong's drawings, which act as a nice visual thread in the film. There's a moment when he draws twin brothers at the same time—with two crayons positioned in one hand—that is quite impressive.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Zwigoff provides a great commentary. It's no surprise that he was a good friend of Robert Crumb, because he sounds a lot like him—with the same laugh and the same croaky tone to his voice. It's like they copied each other. You also get a booklet containing some of Armstrong's drawings, and 30 minutes of unused footage.


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