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MAY 11, 1998: 

In the Company of Men D: Neil LaBute (1997)

with Aaron Eckhart, Stacy Edwards, Matt Malloy.

Aaron Eckhart and Matt Malloy letting it all hang out in In The Company of Men.

Turning the tables on political correctness, affirmative action, and, especially, the feminist movement never seemed so fun! In the Company of Men, director LaBute's low-budget stroke of brilliance, was all but shunned by the mainstream during its release last year, but it found a warm and fuzzy spot in the hearts of critics. You better believe it: In the Company of Men teaches you that everything you know is wrong and slaps you in the face for enjoying the ride. This phenomenal gem is, on the surface, a simple tale about two jilted male co-workers, who, on a six-week-long business trip, decide to take revenge on all the females of the species by jointly finding a "corn-fed" wallflower, making her feel like she's a beauty queen, then dumping her like a sack of bricks ó hard. Chad (Eckhart) is the smooth and devious one, and it's the role of a lifetime. Howard (Malloy) is a lovable Winnie the Pooh type who gets swept up in the scheme. Together, they're devastating... until "the game" ends up having unpredictable effects on the both of them, as well as Christine (Edwards), their deaf and unsuspecting victim. Unpredictable and wholly unique, In the Company of Men is a powerful experience. Take my advice, and watch it with someone you love. Christopher Null

Charley Varrick D: Don Siegel (1973)

with Walter Matthau, Joe Don Baker, Andrew Robinson, Sheree North, Felicia Farr

Small-time bank robber and cropduster pilot Varrick (Matthau) pulls off a bank job in Tres Cruces, New Mexico that leaves four dead and his wife mortally wounded. With his dimwitted partner Harman (Robinson) he makes a clean getaway, but there's one big problem. The take from the bank job is much bigger than expected, leading him to believe that the small-town bank was actually a "drop" for a Mafia money-laundering setup. Varrick winds up having to contend with the cops and the mob, as well as his mistrustful partner who can't wait to get out and start throwing the money around. It's not one of Siegel's best, but with an ironclad plot, good dialogue, generous helpings of Siegel-style violence, and plenty of double and triple-crosses, it definitely holds your attention as a good caper film. Joe Don Baker is effective as Molly, the pipe-smoking, implacable, coldly efficient ass-whupping machine sent to track them down, while sharp-eyed viewers will spot Siegel himself in a brief cameo. Matthau is contrary to type as the gum-chewing, rumpled, laconic con man Varrick; while Molly has a hot rod Chrysler to chase them, Varrick has a WWI-era biplane. The only real blot on this film is the unappetizing notion of Walter Matthau having sex (ugh) with Felicia Farr (Jack Lemmon's real-life wife). Jerry Renshaw


Electronic Art/Blizzard Entertainment

Sony PlayStation

The 1996 Computer Game of the Year is now available for PlayStation. Diablo is a dungeon exploration game that allows the player to choose a fighter, rogue, or sorcerer as his or her alter-ego and hack, feather, or fireball his way through a variety of perils to an encounter with the ultimate evil: Diablo. This action/RPG from the makers of Warcraft II has 16 levels (which vary in layout from game to game) packed with monsters, treasure, magical and non-magical items, and plenty of action. In addition to the standard accumulation of wealth, possessions, and experience, Diablo adds spice to the mix with several specific quests for the player to fulfill during the course of the game, the final of which is the confrontation with the title nemesis. The three different character classes, along with the randomly generated dungeon levels, make Diablo an eminently replayable game. The PlayStation version differs slightly from its computer predecessor in a number of ways, most significantly the control. Although there is a mouse available for PlayStation, almost no games have seen fit to use it (a notable exception being Red Alert). As a result, the intuitive elegance of the computer version's mouse-driven control mechanism has been shoe-horned onto the standard PlayStation controller. The results are serviceable, at best. In addition, the image resolution on a television doesn't compare to that of a good computer monitor. To help make up for some of the lost detail, the game's translators added a few nifty touches, such as flocks of birds in the village and the player's character's reflection in streams. On the plus side, the PlayStation version does have a variable difficulty setting, and it's quite a welcome feature. And although it's a far cry from the computer two-player mode, the PlayStation Diablo also allows for simultaneous two-player exploration. It's a bit cumbersome and limiting to keep both player/characters in the viewable area, but is great fun nonetheless. Potential buyers should be aware that Diablo is a game requiring frequent saves, and this mechanism uses up the better part of a PlayStation memory card. If it had included a mouse option, the PlayStation version of Diablo would have been about as good the hardware would allow, but it's still a solid effort worthy of gamers' attention. Bud Simons

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