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E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Oh, man, we are in Spielberg Blu-ray heaven this year!

After the beautiful Blu-rays for the Indiana Jones films and Jaws, we now get this, perhaps his most-beloved film. Anybody who grew up with this movie and saw it in theaters will tell you it was a film experience like no other. I remember going as a kid and bawling my eyes out. I then stayed for a second showing, and I bawled my eyes out again.

The version here is the original, not the one released in 2002 containing a CGI-enhanced E.T. and walkie-talkies instead of shotguns. This is pure E.T., looking better than he ever has, thanks to a shiny new transfer.

As I watched this on Blu-ray, it dawned on me that the majority of times I watched this movie was on a bootlegged VHS tape my dad gave us for Christmas when it was still in theaters. We were the envy of the block, even if silhouetted heads were visible against the screen (it was videotaped in a movie theater), and the picture was super-grainy.

Because of that tape, I was able to memorize the dialogue and scene paths. Because of the tape's shitty quality, I forgot how pretty this movie is. Sure, I have the DVD release from 10 years ago, but I have watched that a couple of times as opposed to a hundred or so with the VHS. The Blu-ray is the best presentation of this classic you will find.

In the pantheon of child performances, Henry Thomas as Elliott is a god. He made the story of a young boy missing his father and finding an otherworldly friend very real. Drew Barrymore, as little-sister Gertie, got an entire (and much-more-successful) career out of this movie.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A nice new interview with Spielberg features him reminiscing about E.T. and what it meant for his career. Best of all is The E.T. Journals, which uses home video shot on the set during production. A couple of deleted scenes, including that "special edition" bathtub scene, join an E.T. reunion featuring the cast getting together 10 years ago, and some making-of featurettes.

Rock of Ages (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

I had fun with this movie. It's unabashedly stupid, and having lived through the '80s as a teen and young adult, I can tell you I'm embarrassed by much of that decade's musical output (and the hair, too).

Still, I must give big props to Tom Cruise. His turn as aging rock-star Stacee Jaxx is spectacular fun. Cruise learned to sing for the film, and he blisters '80s staples like "Paradise City," "Wanted Dead or Alive" and "Pour Some Sugar on Me." He couples the strong singing voice with an aloof rock-star swagger, making his Jaxx a character to remember.

The rest of the film is just OK. Julianne Hough is sweet if not altogether spectacular as Sherrie Christian, the "small-town girl" moving to Los Angeles to make it big. Diego Boneta isn't quite as interesting as Drew, an up-and-coming rock star and Sherrie's love interest, although I did like it when his character was forced into a boy band.

Other players include Alec Baldwin as a burnt-out club owner, Russell Brand as his henchman and Paul Giamatti as a scumbag promoter. Catherine Zeta-Jones gets a laugh or two as a crazed housewife.

SPECIAL FEATURES: An extended version of the film features extra footage, including a risqué scene between Cruise and Hough. Some featurettes depict the making of the movie and the music that propelled it, including interviews with featured rock stars.

Moonrise Kingdom (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

This terrific Wes Anderson coming-of-age comedy is still in the running for best-picture honors. With a cast that boasts Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, this is a wonderful return to live action after Anderson's foray into stop-animation with Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Set in 1965, it tells of a young "Khaki Scout" (Jared Gilman) who runs away from his troop with his first love (Kara Hayward). The two newcomers are perfect as the young couple, as is Norton as the protective Scout Master Ward, intent upon finding his missing Scout while always puffing on a cigarette.

Willis does some career-best work as a helpful cop, as does McDormand as a mother of one of the lost children. Jason Schwartzman and Harvey Keitel make small but worthy appearances.

Anderson has a distinct style that is all his own. This is a very "Wes Anderson" movie, and that's a damn good thing.

SPECIAL FEATURES: There are only a few small featurettes. Anderson's films usually get an initial, features-deprived release, followed by a Criterion release somewhere down the line. I hope such is the case with this one, but I'm not holding my breath.

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