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The Grey (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

I love this movie for many reasons.

For starters, it features the best performance of Liam Neeson's career as Ottway, a sharpshooter working on an Alaskan oil-drilling site who is unsure if he wants his life to go on. Director and co-writer Joe Carnahan (Narc) hints early on that something happened with Ottway's wife, and we find out what that was later in the movie. Knowing what real-life traumas Neeson has endured within the last few years makes his performance all the more moving.

I also love the film because it has one of the best plane crashes ever depicted on film. When I think of plane crashes in movies that have scared the crap out of me, this one is up there with Alive, Fearless and Lost. (Yeah, Lost was a TV show, but it was a very cinematic TV show.)

When that plane crashes in the Alaskan wilderness, Ottway and a band of survivors (including those played by the mighty good Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney, Dallas Roberts and Joe Anderson) make this one of the best man-versus-nature films you will ever see. The actors braved real, nasty snowstorms during filming.

Finally, I love this movie because it's one of the best werewolf movies ever made. Yes, the beasts attacking Ottway and the boys are supposed to be real wolves, but they are fierce creations that are scarier than most cinematic werewolves. Throw in the fact that the gore and animatronics are handled by the great Greg Nicotero (The Walking Dead), and you have a pretty good horror-film pedigree.

The film is also an effective meditation on life and death, and how life is worth living even when it is overwhelmed with despair. Yes, this is a basic thought found in many movies, but Carnahan delivers it with both eloquence and astoundingly good action and scares. In that way, the film is unique.

As for those of you who like to bitch about the ending: Knock it off. The film is full of man-on-wolf smackdowns. The ending is perfect. It smacked me in the face and made me say wow. I actually think the post-credits coda is unnecessary.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Carnahan, with some of his crew, sits down for a scotch-laced commentary. (You can hear the ice clinking in his glass.) He gets a little more honest and angrier as the commentary wears on, to the point that he calls out members of the crew and actors as people he wanted to kill. It's pretty damned awesome. You also get some deleted scenes, including one in which a polar bear walks up to Ottway at a pivotal moment toward the beginning of the film.

George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Director Martin Scorsese takes a good, long look at the life of George Harrison, the Beatle who was dubbed "the quiet one."

Harrison was mellow, but I never regarded him as quiet. He was very outspoken, especially in regard to his meditative practices and Hinduism. While the other Beatles failed to embrace Harrison's efforts to make them all a little more spiritual, Harrison's spirituality began to emerge in his songwriting, both with the group and as a solo artist. It all changed when he introduced that sitar.

Scorsese examines all of the phases of Harrison's life with great care, including the horrible 1999 knife attack against him and his wife, Olivia. The film reveals just how serious of an attack it was, with Harrison's son saying he believes it took years off of his father's life.

Scorsese did a good job with his Dylan biography, but I found this one a little more fulfilling.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Some extra interview footage.

Haywire (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

The career of director Steven Soderbergh is a wonder to behold. With films ranging from the commercially friendly drama of Erin Brockovich, to the mind-twisting sci-fi of Solaris, to experimental dramas like The Girlfriend Experience, the guy mixes it up like no other.

This is his foray into straight-up action, with impressive physical specimen Gina Carano as the centerpiece. As a black-ops agent who gets double-crossed, she does her own stunts, including some impressive fighting.

Unfortunately, she also does all of her own line reads. She's not terrible with the dramatic stuff, but she isn't very good.

That's OK, because Channing Tatum, Michael Fassbender and Michael Douglas do a decent job with the dramatics. Carano gets a pass because she just rocks the action scenes.

As for Soderbergh, he has hinted that he will be retiring soon. I hope not; he has a few more genres to tackle.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A couple of shorts about the men in the cast and Carano training for her fights.

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