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Jeremiah Johnson (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

I had never before seen this 1972 film in its entirety. It's sort of a hybrid of Grizzly Adams and The Outlaw Josey Wales, with Robert Redford as a mountain man who heads into the Rockies to become a hermit.

He drops out of society to be alone, but things don't stay that way for long. He winds up taking in an Indian wife and her mute child, and grows close to them. Tragedy leads to him going on a killing spree and becoming an enemy of the Native Americans.

The film, directed by Sydney Pollack, is based on the story of John Johnson, a real-life trapper who lost his family to Crow Indians. He was nicknamed Liver-Eating Johnson, because he would eat the livers of those he killed. There are no scenes of Redford eating livers, but there are plenty of him slaying Indians.

The movie is actually quite funny in places. Will Geer (Grandpa Walton!) is a hoot as Bear Claw, a mountain man who collects grizzly-bear claws. He has a few great laughs involving encounters with Indians and bears.

Redford delivers an alternately warm and vicious performance. He's a sweet gentleman in one scene, and then tearing people apart in the next. Pollack gives the film a nice, poetic feel before the blood starts spraying.

This was originally supposed to star Clint Eastwood and be directed by Sam Peckinpah. There would've been a whole lot more blood in that version.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A commentary with Redford and Pollack (mostly Pollack) recorded separately. There's also a vintage featurette on the making of the film.

Underworld: Awakening (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Kate Beckinsale needed a hit, so she returned to the Underworld franchise for this so-so offering—and didn't get a hit. These movies have never made much money, and the domestic box office here fell a few bucks short of its budget.

I didn't like the first three Underworld films (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, which didn't feature Beckinsale, was also a dud), and I don't really like this one, either. There's some nonsense about a plague of vampirism and werewolves breaking out, with Selene being kept in cold storage after being captured. She breaks out and searches for her vampire-werewolf hybrid boyfriend, Michael.

Scott Speedman, who played Michael before, wasn't available for this film. In an unwise move, directors Måns Mårlind and Björn Stein keep the character in the film anyway via computer trickery and body doubles. It's pretty obvious that Speedman isn't around, and the filmmakers would've been wise to write him out. Really, this is supposed to be about Selene and that black corset outfit she's always wearing. That's three physically excruciating films in that tight outfit, and I haven's seen one break for a shower. Ew.

Stephen Rea plays an evil scientist doing experiments on Selene and her daughter. (Yes, Selene apparently had a daughter while frozen ... just how is never explained.) Charles Dance shows up as a senior vampire, because he looks a little like former vampire-king Bill Nighy, doesn't he?

Hopefully, this will be the end of the Underworld saga. The Blade movies were better, and they stopped making those a long time ago, even before Wesley Snipes went to prison.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A director's commentary; some picture-in-picture clips and factoids; and decent featurettes make this OK as far as features go. But don't waste your time with the lame blooper reel.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

I have now watched this film four times, and it gets to me in a different way each time.

Lynne Ramsay has made a movie about every mother's worst nightmare. Tilda Swinton is heartbreaking as Eva, the mother of Kevin, the creepiest kid to ever walk planet Earth. Played by Jasper Newell as a youngster, and Ezra Miller as a teenager, this kid is the epitome of haunting. Eva never takes to motherhood after a bad pregnancy and a painful delivery. Kevin seems to detect the disconnect, and he makes her—and the world—pay.

John C. Reilly is great as the father who thinks everything will be OK, but this is Swinton and Miller's movie; their standoffs are chilling. When Kevin commits an unspeakable act at school, it's a gut-punch. Seeing Eva deal with the torment, guilt and loss in the aftermath is even harder. This film is a harrowing experience, and it's brilliantly made.

This one comes from Oscilloscope Laboratories, the film company co-founded by the late Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. Thanks to Yauch for what this company brings to cinema.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A very good behind-the-scenes doc features interviews with the main actors and Ramsey. You also get a sit down interview with Swinton, and a red-carpet interview with author Lionel Shriver, who penned the book on which the movie is based.

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