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Beginners (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Christopher Plummer is terrific as Hal, an elderly man who comes out of the closet after his wife's death. However, as his son, Oliver, Ewan McGregor makes me sleepy at times.

The movie plays out of chronological order as we see Plummer's character alternately enjoying his new gay lifestyle and battling cancer. We see Oliver coping with his dad's predicament and starting a new relationship with a quiet actress named Anna (Mélanie Laurent). The new couple's part of the film is boring; Plummer's is not.

Director Mike Mills wrote the script partly based on his own father, who came out of the closet when his mother died. The film certainly has its charms. Goran Visnjic is quite good as Plummer's younger boyfriend, and Oliver's exchanges with the family dog are endearing.

The film could've played a little better had McGregor perked up a bit. He drags his feet too much to be wholly entertaining.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A short film on the making of the movie, and a Mills commentary track.

Little Big Man (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

This has long been one of my favorite movies, and it looks spectacular on Blu-ray. Have I mentioned lately how thankful I am for the Blu-ray format?

Dustin Hoffman plays Jack Crabb, an old man looking back on his life while being interviewed in a retirement home. Turns out Jack was adopted by American Indians when he was a youngster, and while he returns to the white man's civilization multiple times during his life, he always seems to wind up back with his tribe.

Director Arthur Penn (Bonnie and Clyde) managed to make a movie that is both funny and startlingly brutal when it comes to depicting the violence toward Native Americans in the Old West. You'll find yourself laughing at one moment and gasping at the next.

Faye Dunaway is frightening perfection as a wayward preacher's wife who eventually winds up in a whorehouse. Chief Dan George is terrific as Jack (Little Big Man's adopted grandfather), a role which earned George an Oscar nomination. Best of all in the supporting roles is Richard Mulligan as Gen. George Custer. His performance feels so authentic that you have to believe the real Custer was as ignorant and conceited as the one portrayed in this movie.

The aging makeup used on Hoffman still looks good, and it's far better than the crap they slopped on Armie Hammer in J. Edgar. The film's ending still shocks and impresses. This is one of the great American epics of the '70s.

SPECIAL FEATURES: You get nuthin'! This deserved a retrospective documentary or something.

The Change-Up: Unrated (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

I thought the pairing of Ryan Reynolds and Jason Bateman in a body-switching comedy could provide at least a decent time. Both actors are capable of comic gold, and body-switching scenarios can be kind of cute at the movies. But this film is just gross and wastes the talents of all involved. Reynolds can't catch a break, can he?

SPECIAL FEATURES: This includes the unrated and theatrical versions, deleted scenes, a gag reel, a commentary and more. It's pretty packed for a crap film.

Larry Crowne (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Nothing about this movie works.

The reteaming of Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts is a middling affair, with most of the fault going to Hanks, because he directed this thing. He plays a discount-store worker who is laid off due to corporate cutbacks and his lack of a college education. So he signs up for some courses at a college where a grouchy Roberts is a teacher.

I can believe that Tom Hanks could hook up with Julia Roberts, because he's super-rich and powerful in real life. But in this movie, he's a super-dork who drives around on a scooter and wears terrible clothes. The idea that these two characters would ever become romantically involved is nutty.

Hanks directs in such a goofy manner that it's hard to take the movie seriously. I usually like Hanks in comic mode, but this film is heavy on the emotional syrup, and it gets irritating. Hanks as a comic actor is best left in another director's hands.

Roberts gets a chance to play a "normal" woman in this film, and she captures the mannerisms of a fed-up college teacher just fine. Still, it's hard to buy her in the role; I guess there are certain things you just can't play convincingly when you are a superstar ... or when you are a superstar being directed by Tom Hanks.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Some deleted scenes that truly needed to be abandoned are included in a making-of featurette.

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