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Black Swan (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Oscar winner Natalie Portman nails it as Nina, a ballerina in the middle of her career who gets the role of a lifetime—but at great psychological costs.

Darren Aronofsky uses Swan Lake as the backdrop for his tale of identity crisis and the perils of stardom, with Portman convincingly playing the role of a well-studied ballerina who might be a little too tightly wound.

Portman put herself through a lot for the role, emotionally and physically. There's been some recent hubbub about how she didn't do all of her dancing. (One of her dancing doubles tried to take credit for doing "80 percent" of the dancing in the film.) True, her face was superimposed on another dancer's body for some of the more complicated moves, and those aren't always Portman's feet we are seeing.

Still, there are plenty of stunning moments when it is very obviously her performing, and she brings a tremendous amount of poise to the dancing form. The work she put in for her own dancing parts makes the transition all the more seamless when special effects and body doubles take over. Funny ... nobody ever seems to bitch when a stunt man takes over for Keanu Reeves or Harrison Ford in their films.

As for the complete mental breakdown being depicted onscreen, that is all Portman, and that's why she now has an Oscar on her mantle. She gave her all for this role, and she deserves the accolades. As for Aronofsky, he hasn't made a bad film yet, and if he ever does, I will be truly shocked.

Big props to Barbara Hershey, Winona Ryder and Mila Kunis for their supporting roles, some of the best performances to hit screens last year.

SPECIAL FEATURES: An extensive documentary studies the shooting locations (Purchase College stood in for a Manhattan dance studio and stage), effects and performances in the film. The movie was shot on a relatively low budget, but Aronofsky made it look like a big-dollar production. I would've liked an Aronofsky commentary, but I guess you can't have everything.

TRON: The Original Classic (Special Edition Blu-ray + DVD)





(OUT OF 10)

I never was a big fan of the whole TRON thing, and last year's sequel didn't help matters much. True, the movie broke barriers by utilizing computer graphics, and ... well, just talking about computers was alien in 1982.

I always felt the actors seemed lost, and the story was slow and often incomprehensible. As for the special effects, they looked cheap and cartoon-like. The costumes worn by actors like Jeff Bridges, Barnard Hughes and Bruce Boxleitner were comically strange. Only Cindy Morgan wore the TRON outfit well. Actually, in her day, Cindy Morgan (Lacey Underall from Caddyshack!) wore anything well.

Watching this today, I couldn't help but notice how goofy Bridges is in this movie. He just doesn't seem to know what's going on. The early incarnation of Clu, his computer alter ego (who became the villain in TRON: Legacy), talked like a silly alien. And it doesn't help that his costume placed strange black lines all over his ass.

So, yes, I acknowledge that it is an important film that helped take moviemaking into a new age. But I've never enjoyed watching it, and that's a big requirement for me to say I like something. As far as I'm concerned, no further TRON movies are necessary, and they could've stopped with this one.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A recently made documentary about the TRON phenomenon, and a bunch of vintage stuff from the original DVD release. Watching the docs and listening to the commentary about how the movie was made is far more interesting than the movie itself.

Babe (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

One of my favorite movies ever comes to Blu-ray in remastered form, and I couldn't be happier. The story of the sheep-herding pig and his life on a farm is just about the most adorable movie ever made. Seriously: Is there anything cooler than Babe proudly singing "Jingle Bells?"

The duck is awesome, and Aflac should be sued for stealing him. The mean cat talks just like mean cats should talk, and James Cromwell got the best role of his career as the farmer who notices his pig is just a little bit different.

This one is also recommended if you want to decrease your meat intake. (Watch it in a triple feature with Food, Inc. and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, and you may never eat meat again.) My bacon intake has dropped dramatically over the years, so I guess I have this movie to thank for less pork fat coursing through my bloodstream!

There's no word yet on when the excellent sequel, Babe: Pig in the City, is coming out on Blu-ray in the United States.

SPECIAL FEATURES: You get a making-of short and a commentary from director George Miller.

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