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Buried (Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack)





(OUT OF 10)

I'm torn about my feelings for this film. On one hand, it features an incredible, daring performance from Ryan Reynolds as a man buried in a coffin with very little time to save himself. On the other hand, it contains too many improbabilities and unrealistic behaviors.

Reynolds plays Paul Conroy, victim of an Iraqi ambush while driving a truck in the war-torn country. The entire film takes place inside of a coffin, where he wakes up with nothing but a cell phone, a knife and some unreliable lighting.

He begins making phone calls (like he would get cell service inside a coffin), and this is where the problems start. First off, the people to whom he talks, including government types and employers, all act like major assholes and treat him terribly. I know people can be miserable bastards, but most people, no matter how jerky they are, would carefully choose their words while speaking to a man trapped in a coffin. Things go too far when one man gets a taped deposition from Paul in order to exonerate his company from legal obligations regarding his death. I just don't buy it.

Also, the voice actors sound flat and over-rehearsed (with the exception of Samantha Mathis, who does a nice job as the panicked wife). They sound silly, making you wish that Paul would stop making phone calls and simply conduct conversations with his dying self.

In the end, I'm giving Buried a mild recommendation, because Reynolds is remarkably good here, from his constricted vocal chords to his wild, frightened eyes. He does make you believe he is buried alive, and I found myself rooting for Paul in his impossible plight.

One of these days, Reynolds is going to find a project that matches his talents.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Only one feature: a decent making-of doc. I would've loved to hear a commentary from Reynolds detailing the physical torture he put himself through while making this movie.

Raging Bull (30th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray + DVD)





(OUT OF 10)

Yep, there is already another Blu-ray release for this film, following last year's version. You know enough about this movie, so I will be brief.

It's incredible; it looks tremendous on Blu-ray; and De Niro pulled off one of the all-time-great screen tricks with his legendary muscle buildup, followed by his tremendous weight gain. Thank goodness he talked a then-ill Scorsese into making this instead of The Last Temptation of Christ (something Scorsese would do quite well nearly a decade later).

But the big question is, "Do I really need this disc if I own the one that came out friggin' last year?"

SPECIAL FEATURES: The answer to that above question is, "Yeah ... kind of." All of the prior special-edition features that showed up on that disc are here, and there's some new stuff, including brand-new interviews with Scorsese and De Niro; interviews with directors like Kimberly Peirce and Neil LaBute on how the film influenced them; and reflections on Scorsese and De Niro's collaborations together. They are good features that are worth having. You also get a standard-DVD version of the film. Sure, you will live if you just stick with the first Blu-ray, but Scorsese fans will definitely want to see the new material.

Stone (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Speaking of Robert De Niro, he almost saves this contrived prison drama co-starring Edward Norton and Milla Jovovich. Almost.

De Niro plays a prison-system pencil-pusher who determines whether inmates are fit for parole before they meet with the parole board. Norton plays a wily prisoner with secrets who wants out—and he must find a way to convince De Niro that it is his time. And Jovovich plays Norton's wife, who becomes instrumental in Norton's plot to get sprung.

This film contains some of the more impressive acting scenes from De Niro in a long time. His character is a complicated and generally unpleasant guy, and he does some bad things in this movie. As for Norton, he's just doing his Primal Fear shtick again, and while he remains an interesting actor, this project and role represents a major waste of his time. The Jovovich-De Niro scenes are far more interesting than anything Norton puts forth.

Something strange worth noting: Norton's character throws some luggage over his shoulder and walks off into the distance, alone, at the film's end. It looks exactly like what his Bruce Banner did at the end of The Incredible Hulk. I expected to hear the sad piano music from the Hulk TV show.

It's not a good movie, but it does show that De Niro could be working back toward a place where he is willing to take chances. (Last year's Machete is further proof of that.)

SPECIAL FEATURES: Just one making-of feature. That's all.

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