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Se7en (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

If you were to ask me which movies have had the best transfers at this moment in the evolution of Blu-ray, this one would be in my top five. Any worries that this film might be too dark for a decent transfer are immediately dispelled: The picture is near-perfect, and the sound is incredible.

Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt are superb as a couple of detectives forced to play a game with a sick serial killer who is using the seven deadly sins as his theme. (This movie is Saw's much smarter and cooler grandpa.) Director David Fincher, coming off the commercial and critical disappointment of Alien 3 (a movie that, I insist, is not bad), established himself as a force with this film.

Released in 1995, Se7en is one of those game-changer movies. I remember watching it in the theater and thinking, "Nothing has ever looked like this movie," and having that gut feeling that no matter how many directors tried to ape it (and they have), nobody would ever do anything like it again. I also marveled at how they were able to get away with such a nasty ending in a big Hollywood movie. I place this alongside Barton Fink as the two best movies to end with a head in a box. Actually ... are they the only two movies to end with a head in a box?

The year 1995 marks the true arrival of Brad Pitt as a great actor. He nailed down an Oscar nomination for Twelve Monkeys (which he deserved) and delivered what I still consider his emotionally strongest performance in this film. His final showdown with John Doe (Kevin Spacey) is an attack on all of the senses. Anybody who tried to dismiss Pitt as a pretty-boy actor only needed to see his work in the final 15 minutes of Se7en to know he was the real deal.

I also count this as the arrival of Gwyneth Paltrow as an actress to be reckoned with, even though her part was small. As Tracy, the wife of Pitt's character, Paltrow does amazing things in her few minutes.

The movie has lost none of its sting, and remains an astonishing example of cinematic art direction.

SPECIAL FEATURES: There are four commentaries to be absorbed, the best including Fincher, Pitt and Freeman. Among the cool facts learned: R. Lee Ermey originally auditioned to play John Doe (a role that went to Kevin Spacey), and the original ending would've really stunk up the film. Alternate endings and openings, deleted and extended scenes, and an extensive look at the creation of John Doe's weird-ass notebooks are included. It all comes in a nice hardcover booklet with sweet pictures.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest: Collector's Blu-ray





(OUT OF 10)

Jack Nicholson reigns supreme as R.P. McMurphy, who takes what he thinks will be short trip to a mental institution, but winds up squaring off with the evil Nurse Ratched (Louise Fletcher) and dooming himself.

Originally pegged as a vehicle for Kirk Douglas (son Michael wound up producing), and very nearly starring Burt Reynolds, the film established Nicholson as one of the more important actors of the '70s.

SPECIAL FEATURES: If you already own the previous Blu-ray release, there's no need for double-dipping on this one. It's essentially the same content, although a new documentary featuring a recent Michael Douglas interview is added to the package. An audio commentary featuring Douglas and director Milos Forman is highly listenable, and a lengthy documentary about the movie is essential viewing for lovers of the film. New for collectors is a commemorative deck of cards featuring the actors and a new collectible book. It comes in a pretty sizable box that will stand out on your shelf.

The Twilight Zone: Season 1 (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Host Rod Serling's weekly excursions into the unknown—my favorite anthology series—delivered some great classics in the first of its five seasons. Episode 8, "Time Enough at Last," stars Burgess Meredith as a bank teller who really likes to read and is the first of many truly great episodes.

The familiar theme song didn't show up until Season 2, and Season 3 might be when the show hit its peak, but this season has plenty of gems. "A Stop at Willoughby," the brilliant "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" and the creepy "The Hitch-Hiker" are other highlights. Some of the episodes are slight misfires, but the good far outweighs the bad. Of course, the episodes have never looked better than they do on these Blu-rays.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentaries, radio plays, the original pilot (introduced by Desi Arnaz!), isolated music scores and much more. For those of us who are impatient (such as myself), Season 2 is already set for a November release. Yay!


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