CATEGORIES DVDs


Bad hair won't keep Russell Crowe's investigative reporter from getting to the bottom of a Beltway murder in 'State of Play,' and a Dominican baseball prospect finally makes it -- to Bridgeport, Iowa -- in the indie gem 'Sugar.' Plus, penguin sightings! Get the full scoop on this week's DVD releases, plus our recommendations from weeks' past. 'State of Play'
What It's About: An old-school Beltway newspaper reporter (Russell Crowe, in dire need of a haircut) teams up with a young hotshot political blogger (Rachel McAdams) to investigate the death of the mistress of a congressman (Ben Affleck).

It's Kind of Like: 'All the President's Men' meets 'Hollywood Homicide'

What We Say: Intriguing and involving but also too convoluted and twisty, this is the sort of conspiracy thriller it'd be nice to see Hollywood make more often. It's also a thinly veiled attack on Halliburton (based around a sinister, very profitable weapons company) and elegant commentary on the death of print journalism; it doesn't live up to its aspirations to be the next 'President's Men,' but hey, it beats the hell out of 'I Love Trouble.'

Add to Netflix queue | Buy the DVD | Read Rachel McAdams Q&A

'Earth'
What It's About: Only the most awesome planet in the galaxy! This feature-length doc compiles the most awe-inspiring images and sequences from the BBC TV series 'Planet Earth,' following the life cycles (including habits, rituals and occasionally, tragic ends) of a colorful variety of animals.

It's Kind of Like: 'March of the Penguins, Elephants, Whales, Lions and Bears'

What We Say: For those who've seen 'Planet Earth,' this breathtakingly beautiful film plays like a highlight reel from the beloved series. For others, this is a grand introduction to a new brand of eco-friendly entertainment, and does indeed best 'March of the Penguins.' It even sees 'Penguins' narrator Morgan Freeman and raises it a James Earl Jones.

Add to Netflix queue | Buy the DVD | Watch the trailer

'Sugar'
What It's About: Dominican Major League Baseball hopeful Miguel "Sugar" Santos (Algenis Perez Soto) is called up to the Big Leagues... scratch that, the, um, not-so-Big Leagues, as a prospect on a single-A team in rural Bridgeport, Iowa (located I believe somewhere near Kevin Costner's Field of Dreams).

It's Kind of Like: Baseball's equivalent of 'Hoop Dreams'

What We Say: Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, the husband-and-wife filmmaking team behind the 2006 gem 'Half Nelson,' deliver another indie diamond in the rough with this quietly stunning baseball drama that has to be the most realistic portrait of the pro sport's inner-workings we've seen yet. Still, you don't have to be a sports fan for this one to rank as a must-see.

Add to Netflix queue | Buy the DVD | Watch the first 7 minutes

Other New Releases:
'Sin Nombre'
'Good Dick'
'Meteor'
'Tennessee'
'Bring It On: Fight to the Finish'

New on Blu-ray:
'Gladiator'
'Braveheart'

'M*A*S*H'
'Monster'
'The Girl Next Door'



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Recent DVD Recommendations
Check out previous weeks' DVD releases that get our seal of approval, including 'I Love You, Man' and 'Coraline.'
Paramount
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New DVD Recommendations

    'Watchmen'

    Release Date: July 21

    What It's About: Alan Moore's widely celebrated graphic novel about supremely tortured superheroes gets the big screen treatment from '300' director Zack Snyder, complete with a so-not-funny Comedian (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), scene-chewing Rorschach (Jackie Earle Haley), Skinemax-like sex scene and giant blue member.

    What We Say: It's flawed and indulgent, sure, but it's also one of the most original and compelling superhero movies ever made. Long called "unfilmable" because of its complex mythology and alternate time setting, Snyder pulls it off with style, sticking admirably close to the material. It is recommended you read the graphic novel first, though. Otherwise you might be a little perplexed by the giant "Blue Man Group dude" (Dr. Manhattan, whose back story doesn't come until about 30 minutes in).

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD

    Warner Bros.

    'Coraline'

    Release Date: July 21

    What It's About: When her family moves into an old house, the eponymous young girl (voiced by Dakota Fanning) discovers a portal to a parallel universe that at first seems perfect (her parents are more attentive, there's bacon sizzling on the stove, etc), but in truth is far more sinister (everyone has buttons for eyes, for one).

    It's Kind of Like: 'Pan's Labyrinth' meets 'Nightmare Before Christmas'

    What We Say: The first must-see movie of 2009, this eye-popping whirl through stop-motion animation is a meeting of two brilliant minds (writer Neil Gaiman and director Henry Selick) and remains one of the year's best. Following in the tradition of 'Nightmare' and 'Corpse Bride,' it's a gothic, trippy, oftentimes creepy (see aforementioned buttons for eyes) film that should thrill older kids and adults in equal measure.

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD

    Focus Features

    'Two Lovers'

    Release Date: June 30

    What It's About: Joaquin Phoenix is a troubled Brooklyn man who, despite a current residence in his parents house, is blessed/cursed with the difficult decision of choosing between two beautiful women (Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw). And yes, he raps.

    What Critics Say: Reviewers showed a lot of love for 'Two Lovers,' with the romantic drama earning an 84 percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The Hollywood Reporter called it "The best American drama of the year."

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD

    Magnolia

    'Waltz With Bashir'

    Release Date: June 23

    What It's About: Having strange memory blockage surrounding his experience in the 1982 Lebanon War, an Israeli Army vet-turned-documentarian (Ari Folman) tracks down several men he served with to fill in the pieces, and then animates the results.

    It's Kind of Like: 'Persepolis' meets 'Jacob's Ladder' minus the humor and horned creatures

    What We Say: Somber and admittedly slow-paced, the film -- an Oscar favorite that lost Best Foreign Film to 'Departures' in one of the 2009 ceremony's only upsets -- is a thought-provoking examination of war and the human psyche's response to it.

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD

    Sony Classics

    'The International'

    Release Date: June 9

    What It's About: It's Clive Owen against the world as an Interpol agent who, along with the help of a US assistant district attorney (Naomi Watts), attempts to bring down a arms-dealing, globe-ruling, omnipresent network of villains otherwise known as -- you guessed it? -- bankers.

    It's Kind of Like: Clive Owen finally playing James Bond

    What We Say: Talk about a topical thriller. Who's not ready to root against bankers right now? Of course here they're not just execs taking fat bonuses while driving the economy into a recession, but murderous corporate thugs bent on global domination. So yes, 'The International' takes a bit of suspension of belief, but it's still a riveting and high-voltage thriller worth the watch.

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD

    Sony

    'Defiance'

    Release Date: June 2

    What It's About: When the Nazis invade town and kill their parents, the Bielski brothers (Daniel Craig, Liev Schreiber and Jamie Bell) escape to the Belarussian forest, where they exact some brief revenge before forming a safe camp for other Jewish escapees.

    It's Kind of Like: 'Schindler's List' meets 'The Dirty Dozen'

    What We Say: Nobody does war like director Ed Zwick ('Glory,' 'Courage Under Fire,' 'Blood Diamond'). Despite its conventions, 'Defiance' is a powerful and moving epic that deserved more love when it opened last December (the film scored a modest 56 percent approval rating from critics on RottenTomatoes).

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD

    Paramount Vantage

    'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'

    Release Date: May 5

    What It's About: A New Orleans man (Brad Pitt) who miraculously ages in reverse, growing from naïve elder into relatively normal "middle-aged" period into a senile little boy. Sad as it may be, hey, at least he's got the impossibly handsome looks of Brad Pitt.

    It's Kind of Like: 'Forrest Gump' meets 'Cocoon'

    What We Say: So long as you don't mind the epic 166-minute runtime (easily the biggest audience knock against 'Button'), this is a fascinating and heartbreaking story done due justice with captivating, eye-catching effects by a brighter-than-ever David Fincher ('Seven').

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD

    Paramount

    'Frost/Nixon'

    Release Date: April 21

    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.

    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).

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD

    Universal

    'The Wrestler'

    Release Date: April 21

    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.

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD

    Fox Searchlight

    'Notorious'

    Release Date: April 21

    What It's About: Just 12 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:

    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.

    Rent the DVD | Buy the DVD

    Fox Searchlight