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Papillon (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)


While this isn't the greatest of movies, it's a sentimental favorite of mine. I saw it for the first time in the mid-'70s late one night, and it was pretty shocking stuff for a PG-rated prison-escape movie.

I learned about leprosy, saw what may have been my first movie boobs, and found out that men could actually like men with this movie. Yes, after viewing a few of the suggestive prison scenes, it raised a few questions in my young mind, which led to an enlightening conversation with my dad at 2 a.m. about the existence of homosexuality. Hey, I was quite the youngster, and thought dudes only liked girls. I was quite perplexed ... and also very tired.

Steve McQueen kicked mortal—and sometime quite eccentric—ass as the title character, a man whose will cannot be broken by any prison. Dustin Hoffman, who had an incredible run in the '70s, is perfection as Louis Dega, sent to prison for financial crimes and not at all ready for the horrors he will face. This was the movie that confirmed Hoffman as my acting hero when I was a young lad. He's still an acting hero, but I'm a little perturbed with him due to his participation in the Focker movies.

McQueen, who had just seven years to live when this movie was released, put himself through the physical ringer with this one. There are lots of heavy chains; they run around in the jungle; and, most amazingly, there is crocodile-wrestling. Yes, that is McQueen and Hoffman really wrestling a crocodile. Granted, the thing was drugged, but it did thrash about, and the fear in their eyes is very real. I'm thinking Tom Cruise is the only actor, besides Hoffman, alive today who would be willing to wrestle a live crocodile for a few feet of film. Crazy bastards.

SPECIAL FEATURES: An old, albeit interesting, featurette on the making of the movie. That is all.

Passion Play (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)


Oh my, this is some misguided trash. Director Mitch Glazer tries to channel the likes of David Lynch and Wim Wenders with this art-house fare, but he winds up in a league with Dennis Dugan and Joel Schumacher instead.

Mickey Rourke plays Nate, a vigorously ugly trumpet player who is driven out into the desert in the film's opening sequence; he's about to be shot for sleeping with the wife of a crime lord (Bill Murray). At the last second, he is saved by some warriors dressed in white, and winds up at some sort of freak show, where he feasts his eyes upon Lily (Megan Fox), a beautiful woman with wings.

It's pretty obvious where this film is going—but it's a long, worthless slog to get there. Rourke is painful to watch in this one, spouting tears anytime Glazer lends him the opportunity. Fox actually out-acts Rourke, doing her utmost to give her part the substance the script doesn't contain. She also looks mighty good at all times ... something we can't say about Rourke.

Murray seems to be in pain and embarrassed as Happy Shannon, the mostly soft-spoken crime guy. Glazer is a former Saturday Night Live writer who also wrote Murray's Scrooged, so I imagine Murray got roped into this thing because they are friends.

Murray won't give us Ghostbusters 3, but he will participate in the total shit storm that is this movie?

SPECIAL FEATURES: You get nothing, and that makes me glad. The less time spent with this disc, the better.

The Company Men (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)


People have scoffed at me a bit when I've recommended this movie based on the merits of Ben Affleck's performance. I happen to think the man has some chops, and he is quite good here as a top-tier salesman who gets laid off from his high-paying job and winds up doing carpentry work alongside a relative (played well by Kevin Costner).

Directed by John Wells, this is actually a good movie about the recent economic downturn and people's hardships—until its stupid copout ending. Still, you get fine work from Affleck, Costner and Tommy Lee Jones as a man who also gets a pink slip during tough times, but has enough in the coffer to make a difference and fight back.

Affleck—who continues to make a name for himself as a director with films like The Town—shows here that he can most certainly hold his own as an actor. Films like Daredevil, Gigli and Smokin' Aces were bad around him. Just watch stuff like Changing Lanes, Dogma and this movie for proof that he knows what he's doing in front of the camera.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A writer-director commentary, deleted scenes, a making-of featurette and an alternate ending that would've suited the film much better.

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