It's Richard Nixon vs. Randy 'The Ram' Robinson in battle of Best Actor runner-ups.

The Oscar heavyweights continue to land on DVD this week as two of the best performances of 2008 by men not named Sean Penn become available for home viewing.

Frank Langella brings his stage portrayal of Nixon to the screen in Ron Howard's tense and gripping 'Frost/Nixon,' while Mickey Rourke gets bruised and battered in the comeback role of the year in 'The Wrestler.'

Also new: The surprisingly good hip-hop biopic 'Notorious.' Get the full scoop on this week's DVD and Blu-ray releases, plus our recommendations from weeks' past.


'Frost/Nixon'
What It's About: The true story of David Frost (Michael Sheen), a British TV personality who ponied up a cool $600,000 for the exclusive first interview with disgraced ex-president Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) ... and somehow got his money worth.

What We Say: It takes some serious directorial skill to condense 12 days of interviews into two hours of tense and gripping entertainment, but that's exactly what Ron Howard does in crafting this exciting battle of wits. It also helps that Langella's humanizing portrayal of Tricky Dick is phenomenal.

Award Tour: For as acclaimed as the play-turned-movie is, 'Nixon' didn't fare so well among Oscar voters, going 0-for-5. Still, though, it beat out Oliver Stone's 1995 'Nixon' starring Anthony Hopkins (four nominations, no wins).

Special Features? The DVD offers a making-of doc, footage from the actual interviews and a feature on additional recordings of the ex-prez (perfect for the Nixon completist).

Add to Netflix queue | Buy from Amazon | Read Ron Howard Q&A | 50 Best Movies of 2008

'The Wrestler'
What It's About: Randy 'The Ram' Robinson (Mickey Rourke), a former pro wrestling sensation, is a shell of his former self. He now lives in a trailer park, wrestles for pennies at local New Jersey holes where using a staple gun (yes, a staple gun) in the ring is perfectly acceptable, and obsesses over a friendly neighborhood stripper (Marisa Tomei).

It's Kind of Like: The anti-'Hogan Knows Best'

What We Say: Darren Aronofsky's superb indie made the most noise for Rourke's triumphant comeback as a gentle giant, but the film itself was one of the year's best: It's a powerful, brutal and grueling yet still inspiring human drama.

Award Tour: Many believe Rourke, who won Best Actor honors at the Golden Globes, BAFTA and Indie Spirit Awards (not to mention from the Central Ohio Film Critics Association), was robbed when he lost to Sean Penn at the Oscars. Agreed. But look at the upside: Now the guy's a red-hot commodity starring in 'Iron Man 2.'

Add to Netflix queue | Buy from Amazon | Watch exclusive DVD clip

'Notorious'
What It's About: Just twelve years after his death comes this biopic about legendary rapper The Notorious B.I.G. (Jamal Woolard), aka Biggie Smalls, Big Poppa, Frank White and Christopher Wallace; also appearing are Anthony Mackie as Tupac Shakur and Derek Luke as P. Diddy (aka the man with too many aka's to list).

It's Kind of Like: '8 Mile' in Brooklyn

What We Say: The fact that Woolard raps over B.I.G. instrumentals is distracting (and we're not as wowed as we should be) but otherwise the actor delivers a strong, confident performance, and the fresh, stylish 'Notorious' builds up to a surprisingly potent peak.

Add to Netflix queue
| Buy from Amazon | Read Jamal Woolard Q&A

Other New Releases This Week:
'Into the Blue 2'
'Personal Effects'

New DVD Recommendations

    'Slumdog Millionaire'

    Release Date: March 31

    What It's About:The nuggets of wisdom an uneducated teen (Dev Patel) learns growing up in the cruel slums of Mumbai (and beyond) correspond perfectly with the questions he faces on India's version of 'Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?'

    It's Kind of Like: 'Quiz Show' meets 'City of God'

    What We Say: For having a plot as gimmicky as detailed above, the fact that 'Slumdog' works so well is almost shocking. It's a fantasy steeped in a harsh reality that combines elements of drama, comedy, romance, action and adventure in conjuring up pure movie magic. Now I wish every movie ended with a Bollywood dance number.

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD

    Fox Searchlight

    'Quantum of Solace'

    Release Date: March 24

    What It's About: After losing the love of his life, a vengeful James Bond (Daniel Craig) is out to take kick ass, take names and -- of course -- entertain on a couple new bed buddies in this direct sequel to 'Casino Royale.'

    What We Say: Whereas 'Royale' spent plenty of energy acclimating us to the new (blond!) 007 with wit, charm, romance and action, 'Solace' is all about the turbo-charged action. This didn't play well with some critics, but we'll take stylish Bond carnage over your average actioner ('Transporter' anyone?) any day.

    Special Features? Unless you're only in it for the Jack White-Alicia Keys music video for 'Another Way to Die' (the sole bonus feature on the single-disc edition), opt for the two-disc, which features several making-of docs, and most importantly, more Olga Kurylenko.

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD
    Craig-Forster Unscripted

    Sony

    'Bolt'

    Release Date: March 24

    What It's About: Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) is not a super-dog, he just plays one on TV. Of course Bolt doesn't know that. When he unwittingly lands in NYC, the lost dog recruits a cranky cat and hilarious hamster (aren't they all?) for a cross-country jaunt back to his loyal owner/co-star (Miley Cyrus) in Hollywood.

    It's Kind of Like: 'Underdog' meets 'Homeward Bound'

    Critical Consensus: There's no stopping talking dog movies -- but there are no singing Chihuahua armies in this animated adventure, which is probably why it fared well with critics, scoring an impressive 86 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD
    50 Best Movies of 2008

    Disney

    'Elegy'

    Release Date: March 17

    What It's About: Believing it's to good to be true and thus doomed to fail, a celebrated college professor (Ben Kingsley) does everything in his power to screw up his relationship with a sexy student (Penelope Cruz).

    It's Kind of Like: 'The Visitor' with sex appeal

    What We Say: This underseen romantic drama about dealing with self-doubt in relationships is elegant, sophisticated and yes, even sexy (never thought we'd say that about a Ben Kingsley movie this decade). And it also reinforces the immortal words of Aaliyah: Age ain't nuthin' but a number, Sir Ben.

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD
    Watch the trailer

    Sony Classics

    'Milk'

    Release Date: March 10

    What It's About: Sean Penn is Harvey Milk, the iconic San Francisco politician who became the first openly gay man elected to office in the U.S. in 1977. Josh Brolin is the jerk who assassinates him.

    What We Say: Gus Van Sant's biopic of the slain leader is much more conventional than you might expect, but not any less affecting or inspiring. Penn's performance is a triumph. And given the recent passage of Prop 8 in California, the film is as topical as they come.

    Awards & Nominations: Penn prevailed in the closest major race at the Oscars, edging out Comeback King Mickey Rourke ('The Wrestler') for Best Actor. The film also won Best Original Screenplay (Dustin Lance Black), but lost pretty much anywhere it was up against 'Slumdog.'

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD
    Oscars Movies Made Easy

    Universal

    'Role Models'

    Release Date: March 10

    What It's About: Sentenced to community service after an energy drink-fueled rampage, "big brothers" Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott teach their "littles" how to stare at breasts without getting caught, plus more valuable life lessons.

    It's Kind of Like: 'Old School' meets 'Cop and a Half'

    What We Say: 'Tropic Thunder,' 'Pineapple Express' and 'Sarah Marshall' may have gotten more play, but 'Role Models' was the funniest comedy of 2008. Both brilliantly sophomoric and sneakily witty (thanks to Rudd's handprints on the script), it's a must-see, and even better on repeat.

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD
    Watch trailer & clips

    Universal

    'Rachel Getting Married'

    Release Date: March 10

    What It's About: Released from rehab for a weekend to attend her sister's wedding, Anne Hathaway's bundle of nerves Kym tries her hardest not to ruin the bohemian-flavored celebration for all.

    What We Say: Moviegoers were generally divided over this indie drama from Jonathan Demme. Fans praised its intimacy and realism. Count me in the camp that appreciated it, but found it comparable to watching someone's home video of the best.wedding.ever.

    Awards & Nominations: If there's one reason to see 'Rachel,' it's Hathaway's stunning Academy Award-nominated performance (she was even an early favorite to win). It should be enough to make you forgive her for 'Bride Wars.'

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD
    Oscar Movies Made Easy

    Sony Classics

    'Let the Right One In'

    Release Date: March 10

    What It's About: In a small and wintry Swedish town, a young boy becomes BFFs with the new girl next door, who, it turns out, is a vampire starving for blood.

    What We Say: It's 'Twilight' for the arthouse crowd. Subtle but thoroughly chilling, this acclaimed import is one of the most sympathetic portraits of vampires you'll see. Eli (Lina Leandersson) may be deadly, but she's pretty damn adorable (and tortured), too.

    Where It Ranks: 'Let the Right One In' placed #29 on our list of 2008's 50 best movies.

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD

    Magnet Releasing

    'I've Loved You So Long'

    Release Date: March 3

    What It's About: When the long-missing and mysterious Juliette (Kristin Scott Thomas) says at a dinner party she's been in prison the last 15 years for murder, people may laugh, but she ain't kidding. Her sister helps welcome her back into society.

    It's Kind of Like: 'Rachel Getting Married' in French

    Critical Consensus: Reviewers loved it so long, with the film scoring a 90 percent approval rating on RottenTomatoes.

    Awards & Nominations: Nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Actress – Drama, the excellent-in-any-language Thomas was a longshot contender for a second Oscar nom (after 'The English Patient'), but was likely edged out by Melissa Leo.

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD

    Sony Classics

    'Dear Zachary'

    Release Date: Feb. 24

    What It's About: After his close friend Andrew is murdered, documentarian Kurt Kuenne sets out to make a film about Andrew's life for his son Zachary. But a shocking turn of events transforms the intended tribute into something far different.

    What We Say: This is a tiny, highly personal doc in the same vein as 'Capturing the Friedmans' that got next-to-no attention during its ultra-limited theatrical release, despite a nearly unanimous chorus of critics labeling it a must-see. We can only hope it finds an audience on DVD: It's one of the most devastatingly powerful and affecting documentaries ever made.

    Where It Ranks: 'Zachary' placed #30 on our list 2008's 50 best movies (can someone say Oscar snub?).

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD
    Watch the trailer

    Oscilloscope



CATEGORIES DVDs