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KILL BILL VOL. 1 (2003). Timed to coincide with the theatrical release of Vol. 2, the first half of Quentin Tarantino's saga about a woman warrior (Uma Thurman) seeking retribution against the former associates who left her for dead hits shelves in a rather threadbare DVD, though one has to assume that a Special Edition combining both films will pop up in the near future. Thurman looks fit and fantastic here, and clearly she came ready to play -- she's so alive on screen, it's a shame the role (in this installment, anyway) doesn't call for her to do much more than slice and dice the rest of the cast. Tarantino's gimmicky approach initially serves the piece well, though like most other aspects, it becomes tiresome and repetitive; Overkill Bill would have been a more truthful title. DVD extras include a making-of feature, musical performances by The 5, 6, 7, 8's (the group seen in the film) and trailers of various Tarantino flicks.
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MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS (1944). It's 1903, the World Fair is just around the corner, and the Smith family learns that Dad's job will force them to move from their beloved St. Louis home and relocate to New York City. That's all the plot needed for one of Hollywood's all-time great musicals, the first (and best) of several collaborations between star Judy Garland and her future husband, director Vincente Minnelli. Certainly, Judy has rarely been more lovely than she is here, whether engaging in a buoyant rendition of "The Trolley Song" or soothing little sister Margaret O'Brien with her peerless take on "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Extra features in this two-disc set from Warner Bros. include a making-of documentary, the pilot episode from a proposed 1966 TV spin-off starring Shelley Fabares and Celeste Holm, the deleted song "Boys and Girls Like You and Me," and trailers of eight Vincente Minnelli films. And while we're on the subject of Garland, Turner Classic Movies is in the middle of showing 28 of her feature films; she's their Star of the Month for April, which also marks the network's 10-year anniversary.
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REEFER MADNESS (1938). As we all know -- and as this legendary "docudrama" so convincingly proves -- it merely takes a single puff on a marijuana cigarette to not only turn a decent kid insane but also to drive him to (brace yourself) dance to fast music! The most famous of all the vintage "message" movies from the 30s and 40s only gets, uh, better with age, as a doctor warns parents about the evils of the wacky weed by relating a story crammed with murder, suicide, attempted rape, hard liquor, and overly exuberant piano-playing. A popular midnight movie on the cult circuit, this has been released over the years under a wide range of titles -- Tell Your Children, The Burning Question, Doped Youth, Love Madness -- and to borrow the tagline from a Cheech & Chong flick, it has always left audiences "rolling" in the aisles. The DVD includes both the original black-and-white version of the film as well as a newly colorized one; extras include audio commentary by Mike Nelson of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and the humorous short film Grandpa's Marijuana Handbook, in which an elderly pothead talks about weed etiquette, explains the proper use of a bong, and offers evidence that the Bible is full of pot smokers (how else to explain Moses seeing a burning bush?).
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