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Pearl Jam Twenty





(OUT OF 10)

Cameron Crowe, who had been napping a bit since his career low of Elizabethtown (he can blame Orlando Bloom for that one), comes back with a vengeance, thanks to this true music-lovers' movie. Pearl Jam has been at it for a little more than 20 years now, and Crowe's documentary takes you from the days of Mother Love Bone to the present.

I had forgotten how crazy Eddie Vedder was. He's such a calm, cool rock ambassador today, and images of him standing up to Ticketmaster, scaling stages and crawling around untethered in rafters had faded from my memory. Crowe puts all of that in the movie—and much more.

Crowe wonderfully captures the essence of Vedder and his mates in this rock doc. For people who truly care about the makeup of a band, the psyche of its lead singer, and the motivations of its guitarists and drummers, Pearl Jam Twenty is a great trip.

It's interesting to see the evolution of Vedder in particular. When we first see him, he's a mild-mannered, fun-loving, shy kid who can't really believe what is happening to him. Then he witnesses some violence at a show and explodes, becoming bitter for some time. Finally, he grows his Jesus beard and mellows out, learning to enjoy the artistically rich life he has earned for himself.

On top of many interviews through the years with band members, Crowe throws in plenty about Neil Young (a frequent collaborator with the band) and other influences such as the almighty The Who.

Pearl Jam has weathered a lot of storms, reinvented itself and remained relevant. Yes, they've released some sub-par albums over the years, and perhaps put their foot in their mouth on some occasions, but at least they remain committed. Crowe's movie is successful in showing us that.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A few outtakes, including one of the band playing in Verona, Italy, after the death of Joey Ramone. There's not a lot of stuff, but it's worth checking out.

Captain America: The First Avenger (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Say this for the folks at Marvel: They are certainly giving us a lot of cinematic fun to sort through. We got this one and Thor in the same year, and The Avengers will grace theater screens next year.

They are doing a nice job with the quality of their pictures, too. While Captain America isn't the best among the recent slate of superhero movies, it's still pretty good, and a welcome chapter on the way to The Avengers, which will combine Thor, the Hulk, Iron Man and others in one film extravaganza. Well ... hopefully it's an extravaganza, and not a clusterfuck.

Chris Evans does nicely in the title role, especially in the sequences before he transforms into a superhero. Through special effects, his face is put on a wimpy kid's body, and it is surprisingly effective.

The film blows it a bit in the action sequences, which don't really distinguish themselves and feel repetitive; there are a lot of shots featuring Captain America running around in the dark. However, Evans redeems the film's flaws with his good work.

SPECIAL FEATURES: This is a rich Blu-ray, with plenty of behind-the-scenes featurettes, a director's commentary and deleted scenes to keep fans happy.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars—The Complete Season Three (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

I'm not a huge fan of The Clone Wars animated series. I hated that poor excuse for a movie that came out a couple of years ago, and the animation style bugs me.

That said, the animation has improved over the first three seasons of the show, and I am starting to warm up to it. I like the fact that it focuses on the clones—who basically all look alike—and their struggles to be decent soldiers in the clone army. It's sort of funny to go behind the scenes with them.

The show has also become a fun place to revisit some of the iconic characters from the movies. Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin play primary roles, with cameos by the likes of Greedo, General Grievous and even the dreaded Jar Jar Binks. Actually, watching Jar Jar in action is pretty funny—because the character reminds you that chunks of what pour out of the George Lucas mind are ferociously bad. Yes, he does a lot of good ... but, man, when he screws up, he screws up royally.

For fans looking to get their Star Wars fix, they could do a lot worse than this series. Just watch the last few minutes of the recent Return of the Jedi Blu-ray release, and you'll know what I'm talking about.

SPECIAL FEATURES: There are behind-the-scene featurettes and an exclusive art gallery for those who get the Blu-ray.

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