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Woody Allen: A Documentary





(OUT OF 10)

Love him or hate him, Woody Allen has had a long and interesting career—and clocking in at 192 minutes, this is a documentary to be seen by anyone who values even just a few films in his canon.

Spanning from his childhood right through Midnight in Paris, this film, by director Robert Weide, utilizes Allen film clips and celebrity interviews (including archival and recent interviews with Allen) to take an all-encompassing peek at this creative and somewhat strange man.

Weide gets a surprising amount of access to Allen's life. In addition to intimate interviews, he gets behind-the-scenes footage on Allen film sets and scenes of Allen playing his clarinet. I've known for many years that Allen performs at a weekly jazz night in a Manhattan club, but I've never seen him playing. He's actually pretty good!

From Allen's pre-movie days, there's great footage of him performing in a tux and top hat—and even a few minutes of him boxing a kangaroo. Ample time is spent on his standup career and early films. In retrospect, the change in his filmmaking style, from Love and Death in '75 to Annie Hall two years later, was substantial. He became a different director once he and Diane Keaton tangled with those lobsters.

The film reminded me about older Allen films that I love and haven't seen in a long time, like Stardust Memories, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Sleeper and Take the Money and Run; all of these films get decent time dedicated to them. It's crazy that the same guy who made Bananas and Sleeper made Crimes and Misdemeanors and Match Point.

The film doesn't avoid the controversy surrounding Allen's relationship with Soon-Yi Previn. Actually, given Allen's participation in the film, I'm surprised they approached the subject at all. Refreshingly, the film makes no effort to sugarcoat what Allen did.

When the film is over, you are left in awe of what Allen has accomplished over the years, good and bad.

He has a film coming out this year, Nero Fiddled, in which he appears as an actor for the first time since Scoop. This will continue his incredible 30-year streak of one film or more per year.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes and a Weide interview.

Beavis and Butt-head: Volume 4 (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Oh, what a magnificent thing it is to once again see the screen go black and hear that distinctive Butt-head laugh, followed by that theme song. It had been 14 years since the duo's last TV episode when creator Mike Judge brought them back to MTV last year.

The boys haven't lost a step; they are funnier than ever. In addition to making fun of videos, they now do commentary on mixed-martial-arts fights and reality TV such as Jersey Shore. The new episodes include the return of Cornholio, Beavis and Butt-head becoming bounty hunters and, most hilariously, the boys adopting a rat and taking him to work at Burger World.

I was quite fond of an episode in which, in order to get girls, the boys set out to get bit by a werewolf so they could be like Taylor Lautner in Twilight. They wind up getting bitten by a homeless man with many strains of hepatitis and become something akin to zombies.

The show feels like it never went off the air. That sensation is perhaps aided by the fact that some of the animation (when the boys sit on their couch and comment on videos) is the same animation from the previous show. It clashes a bit with the new stuff, but that's OK.

I hadn't caught any of the shows on MTV, so I didn't see any of the new stuff until it arrived on Blu-ray. How good is it? I started watching it on a Sunday morning—and didn't stop until I had seen all of the new episodes, nearly 4 1/2 hours later.

Mike Judge is a brilliant man.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Footage from a Comic-Con, featuring Johnny Knoxville emceeing a question-and-answer session with Judge. There are also some Beavis and Butt-head "Interruptions" where they call in and interrupt Jersey Shore footage. I would've liked a little more on the supplemental side.

Take Shelter (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

The best male performance of 2011 belongs to Michael Shannon in this stunner from writer-director Jeff Nichols. Shannon is staggeringly good as Curtis, a husband and father who sees visions of a coming apocalyptic storm and questions his sanity. Jessica Chastain is heartbreaking as Samantha, his confused wife. Both are amazing.

Of course, both of these performances were ignored by the Academy. Way to go, Oscar!

SPECIAL FEATURES: Nichols and Shannon deliver a full film commentary that is worth watching. You also get some deleted scenes and a short making-of featurette.

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