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Waltz With Bashir **** (4 stars)

Written and directed by Ari Folman. Released by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. $28.95.

Waltz With Bashir uses animation in ways traditional animators may have never dreamed, but would certainly applaud. Israeli writer-director-producer Ari Folman, a veteran of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Lebanon, reconstructs illusory memories, nightmares and ugly realities in search of ... well, truth is not exactly the right word. Perhaps "illumination" would be better, as Waltz With Bashir attempts to shed light on questions of guilt and moral responsibility, as well as on memory's peculiar ability to shield those doing the remembering.

The movie has Folman visiting with his fellow vets, trying to understand why he has no memory of his role in a mission that led, directly or indirectly, to the deaths of thousands of Palestinian refugees, killed by a Christian militia. Just like him, those he interviews have found various ways of dealing with their memories.

In a conventional film, the nightmares and visions might be described in lurid detail, might be invoked using cutting-edge special effects. But Folman's vivid and surprisingly facile animation allows the dreams themselves, and not the method of telling, to convey the film's power. The result is an intensely personal film that grapples with issues as old as warfare itself, in ways as revelatory as they are exciting. You will be moved by Waltz with Bashir, not to mention astonished.

Also out today: Isla Fisher is a poster girl for rampant consumerism in Confessions of a Shopaholic (Touchstone Home Entertainment$29.99, $39.99 blu-ray)

- Chris Kaltenbach


The Latest *** (3 stars)

Cheap Trick (Cheap Trick Unlimited). $15

When Cheap Trick is good, it is very, very good, a quartet that has essentially remained intact since its early 1970s inception. The problem is it's maddeningly inconsistent on record. It's possible to write off the middle section of the band's career as an inept attempt to keep up with the MTV times.

But as independent artists, beginning with an unjustly overlooked 1997 self-titled release, the foursome has reclaimed its sound and legacy with a series of fine releases. The Latest is the best of that recent bunch, with producer Julian Raymond adding just a spritz of orchestration to a series of songs that balance the ornate and the violent, a pop album equally audacious and inviting. The band shows its range from the outset, with Robin Zander's glorious vocal intro, a ripping cover of Slade's glam-rock gem "When the Lights Are Out," an opulent psychedelic pop ballad ("Miss Tomorrow").

The rest isn't quite so riveting. The closing ballad, "Smile," smacks of the band's wayward '80s, and some of the rockers are a bit bar-band rote.

- Greg Kot, Tribune Newspapers


Punch Out!! *** (3 stars)

Nintendo Wii. $49.99.

Nintendo's Punch-Out!! boxing games date back to the mid-1980s with the original arcade version, but most gamers are probably more familiar with the 1987 home version for the Nintendo Entertainment System. First in Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! and later in the slightly revised version, late-'80s gamers learned to counter the dirty tricks of such hulking, caricatured boxers as King Hippo, Bald Bull and Piston Honda with the steady punches of the diminutive Little Mac.

The series had been dormant since Super Punch-Out!! in 1996, but now there's a new version on the Wii. Mechanically, this Punch-Out!! is nearly identical to the old one (which is available on the Wii's Virtual Console for anyone who wants to check out the similarities).

Little Mac's limited arsenal is part of what makes the game such fun. Each boxer is a puzzle to crack, and the challenge ramps up quickly.

- Justin Heoger, McClatchy Newspapers

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