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Born on the Fourth of July (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

When I was in college, I filmed a comedy sketch in which I got drunk and began taunting people because Tom Cruise didn't win the Oscar for this movie. My faux-drunk character, upon hearing of the Cruise loss, whined, "They ignored him for Cocktail; they ignored him for Top Gun; and they ignored him for Legend, too."

Twenty-two-plus years later, I still say Cruise got shafted. The Best Actor Oscar went to Daniel Day-Lewis for My Left Foot. That was a stellar performance, but what Cruise pulled off in Oliver Stone's second Vietnam War film was epic.

Cruise plays Ron Kovic, paralyzed in the line of duty during his second tour in Vietnam. Kovic went on to become one of the more outspoken and effective anti-war protesters in the '70s.

Physically, Cruise is convincing as an 18-year-old high school student eager to enlist in the Marines and serve his country. Cruise was in his mid-to-late 20s when he made the film, but he looks like a teenager when Kovic lies on the matt crying after a wrestling loss.

We then see a more-mature Kovic fighting the war, a strong-willed soldier prone to mistakes who is ultimately cut down by two bullets. Stone then shows the apparent horrors of veterans' hospitals as Kovic fights to recover from his wounds. He learns he will never walk again, and Cruise plays these scenes with an emotional depth that was not apparent in his prior film efforts. OK, maybe they were in Cocktail. He was pretty damn heavy in Cocktail.

I think Cruise's Oscar chances were hurt by the terrible makeup in this movie. This film has some of cinema's worst-ever wigs and facial hair. Cruise wears an assortment of hairpieces and hairy-lip adornments that hurt the presentation. He acts through the hair and all of its adhesives with major force, but the look is distracting at times.

Stone got the director's Oscar for this, his second. That's an award that should've gone to Spike Lee that year for Do the Right Thing, for which he wasn't even nominated. (He did score a screenplay nod.) Yes, this is sort of off the subject, but I like to gripe about this slight whenever I get the chance.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The Oliver Stone commentary is a must-listen; he talks about much more than simply making the movie. You also get a couple of Universal anniversary featurettes.

Gray's Anatomy (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

While watching Spalding Gray do his monologue for director Steven Soderbergh, I just didn't get it. Soderbergh filmed Gray in a staged monologue, not in front of a live audience. Gray had performed this same monologue as a live show a few times, but Soderbergh tried to do some kind of clever restaging—and it's drab.

The monologue covers Gray's struggles with a rare eye disorder and his search for the proper treatment. He rambles on and on about surgeries, diets and psychics, with none of it entertaining or absorbing in any way.

SPECIAL FEATURES: The supplements are better than the film. Interviews with Soderbergh and Renée Shafransky, who helped Gray on his monologues, offer interesting insights into the late actor's life. There's also actual footage of Gray's macula surgery and another entire monologue from Gray, A Personal History of the American Theatre.

Pink Floyd: The Story of Wish You Were Here (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Pink Floyd faced the task of following up on a really big deal when they came out with a new album after the mega-successful Dark Side of the Moon. Rather than do more of the same, Roger Waters, David Gilmour, Nick Mason and Richard Wright came out with something sounding different than everything they had done before.

They also chose 1975 as the year to reminisce about their former leader, Syd Barrett, and mourn his loss. Barrett was still alive, but his mates had lost him to the haze of a few too many acid doses. A bloated, unrecognizable Barrett would reportedly stop by the studios and hang out while the album was being mastered.

The album contains tributes to Barrett, a fact that the band members discuss in newly filmed interviews for this documentary. (The late Richard Wright is shown in archival interviews.) Waters and Gilmour discuss the creation of "Shine on You Crazy Diamond," a tribute to Barrett that they created together.

While the band members are filmed in separate locations, it's still a cool thing to see them taking part in a project together, and paying each other the occasional compliment. They even bust out their guitars for some solo performances of Wish You Were Here tracks. For Floyd fans, this is golden.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Extra interview footage, along with more footage of Waters and Gilmour playing tunes.

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