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The Deer Hunter (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

I watch this movie perhaps once every 10 years. With my latest viewing, I'm starting to think it is a little overrated.

Granted, Robert De Niro, Meryl Streep and Christopher Walken all deliver strong work, and at the time of its release, the movie was daring. But the whole thing with Walken's character becoming a famous American who can play Russian roulette like nobody's business ... well, it's not quite as impactful as it used to be.

I still admire the movie. At a time when American film was avoiding the subject of the Vietnam War, director Michael Cimino had the guts to try to tell a story. The film simply doesn't play as well 34 years down the road. It's well-made, but it feels a little hollow.

So I'm sort of downgrading my review from seven years ago. I still like it, and it's good moviemaking ... but it's not great. Maybe I will feel better about it in another seven years. Or maybe I'll hate it.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A commentary from the cinematographer, and some extended and deleted scenes are holdovers from a past DVD release. The sole new feature is a documentary about Universal Studios Oscar winners.

The Last Temptation of Christ (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

When it comes to Jesus at the movies, I'm a big fan of Robert Powell in Jesus of Nazareth. He totally rocked it. And Jim Caviezel did a good job of getting his ass royally kicked in The Passion of the Christ.

But for my money, the best movie Jesus of all time is Willem Dafoe, with his complex characterization in Martin Scorsese's ultimate film about faith and sacrifice. Whether or not you are religious, the depiction of the final sacrifice of Christ in this movie constitutes some of Scorsese's most-compelling work.

Upon its release in 1988, the film garnered a lot of controversy—mostly thanks to people who didn't even see it. Granted, the idea of Jesus getting married and fathering kids is a wild notion to some, but isn't that one of the greatest gifts here on Earth? Didn't Christ, if he did indeed exist, sacrifice much by not getting to live a normal human life? If he were a man, wouldn't he have been tempted?

The film explores all of those questions, and made me think about the meaning of the life of Christ more than any Sunday school class ever did.

Consider yourself warned that the transfer isn't the greatest, and there are some majorly grainy stretches.

SPECIAL FEATURES: There's a booklet with a nice essay on the film, and carry-over features from the prior Criterion DVD release. There's also commentary by Scorsese, cast and crew; a funny look at some of Scorsese's location videos; and an interview with Peter Gabriel, who scored the film.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Unquestionably one of the funniest movies of all time, Holy Grail cemented Monty Python's place in comic history. Until its release, they only had TV and a slapdash movie based on their TV sketches (And Now for Something Completely Different). With this, they achieved legendary status.

Co-directed by the two Terrys (Jones and Gilliam), the film is at once a brilliant farce and a surprisingly good-looking, authentic-feeling film. None of the jokes have grown tired. It's as funny and refreshing as it was on the day it came out almost four decades ago.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Mostly holdovers from prior releases, but there are a couple of new features. Terry Jones introduces some enjoyable deleted scenes, and Terry Gilliam shows some lost animations. That's worth the price of the Blu-ray right there. You also get commentaries with all of the living Pythons; Jones and Michael Palin revisiting shoot locations; an educational film on how to use coconuts, and more.

My Week With Marilyn (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

In this uneven film based in part on the memoirs of Colin Clark, Michelle Williams is astonishing as Marilyn Monroe. That Oscar nomination was well-deserved.

She plays Monroe during the downturn in her career when she starred with Laurence Olivier (Kenneth Branagh, also Oscar-nominated) in The Prince and the Showgirl. Clark (Eddie Redmayne) was an assistant director who befriended Monroe and allegedly had a brief affair with her.

The parts of the film dealing with Monroe's interactions with Olivier are captivating—but just about anything dealing with Clark stops the film in its tracks. This could be due to the fact that Redmayne is so dull, while Williams and Branagh are on fire. It's worth seeing for their work.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A director's commentary and a featurette on Monroe.

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