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Lennon NYC





(OUT OF 10)

Growing up on Long Island, N.Y., I developed some fears and dislikes toward New York City. For starters, it smelled bad, with a wide array of yucky odors that changed from borough to borough. There was also that whole Son of Sam thing when I was 8, and the freaking New York Yankees. (While the Yankees were buried in the Bronx, my Mets were in Flushing, Queens—another vile little place, but closer to home.)

I also disliked the city because it's where one of my heroes died. It's childish of me, I know, but when my father told me that John Lennon had been shot and killed in front of his Manhattan apartment building by some mutant freak, it emboldened my dislike for the city. I instantly found myself wishing that Lennon had not chosen NYC as his home.

This touching film shows why John Lennon loved the city despite its flaws, and refused to leave even when the U.S. government was trying to deport him. Through interviews with the likes of Yoko Ono, Elton John and Jack Douglas (producer of Lennon's comeback album Double Fantasy), we hear how much Lennon loved the Big Apple. From his arrival in 1971 to his far-too-early departure in 1980, we see the many phases Lennon went through in those nine years.

One of the most interesting phases covered in the film involved Lennon's "lost weekend," when he left Yoko in Manhattan and went to live in Los Angeles. This portion of the documentary includes pictures of Lennon hanging out in California with Keith Moon and a couple of buddies named Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney.

Also covered is the five-year period during which Lennon quit recording and became a househusband, raising son Sean and loving life. His triumphant return to the recording studio yielded Double Fantasy and enough music to constitute another album. (The posthumously released Milk and Honey contained some of the leftover material.)

My attitudes about New York City have matured a bit since I was a kid. I'm still happy that I left its vicinity back in the '90s, but I no longer blame Manhattan for Lennon's untimely death. (That was the handiwork of one major asshole who didn't even live there.) This film does a nice job of conveying the city's charms and the many reasons Lennon chose to make it his home.

Still, there's a part of me that wishes Lennon had stayed in Los Angeles or found himself a nice flat in London. I can't believe he's been gone for 30 years.

SPECIAL FEATURES: You get nuthin! But in this case, the movie is enough.

Despicable Me

(Three-Disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy)





(OUT OF 10)

What a great year for animation. This funny and eye-popping piece of work isn't even one of the year's top four animated films, yet it is still very good.

Steve Carell voices Gru, a criminal with major mommy issues who aims to shrink and steal the moon. His biggest enemy is another villain, the nerdy Vector (Jason Segel), who has similar aspirations—and a shark swimming underneath see-through glass in his living room. When Gru adopts three children and uses them in his plan to defeat Vector, he doesn't expect to fall in love with them—which, of course, he does.

The film looks great, is very funny and delivers a sweet message. Other voices are provided by Julie Andrews, Russell Brand and Will Arnett.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A fun feature called Gru Control lets you watch the movie with frequent interruptions, thanks often to those little yellow minions. You also get some short films and a commentary with the directors and, yes, the minions. Some short making-of featurettes round out this fun disc.

Cronos (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Director Guillermo del Toro made his feature debut with this sad, original take on the vampire genre.

Jesus—an old, Geppetto-like antique-shop owner (Federico Luppi)—happens upon a strange gold device that provides eternal, vampire-style life when it stabs you. Another old man (Claudio Brook) wants the device for himself and enlists his grouchy nephew (Ron Perlman) to help find it. Things don't go well, resulting in much bloodletting and a major deterioration in Jesus' looks.

This is an impressive debut; del Toro had his trademark macabre wit right out of the gate.

SPECIAL FEATURES: You get a del Toro commentary, and an old short film of his that started him on his filmmaking career. There's also an interesting tour of del Toro's "man cave" called Welcome to Bleak House, in which del Toro guides you through a house he has devoted to his toys, collectibles and movies. It's an interesting look into the man's life ... and, yes, I wish I had a Bleak House, too.


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