Scrat and friends continue to evolve in the kid-friendly 'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs,' while there's something wrong -- very, very wrong -- with Esther in the not-for-kids 'Orphan.' Plus: Larry David plays Woody Allen in 'Whatever Works.' Get the scoop on this week's new DVD releases, plus recommendations from weeks' past. 'Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs'
What It's About: The animated characters from the two previous 'Ice Age' adventures are back and up to more mischief. This outing revolves around Sid the sloth (voiced by John Leguizamo), who gets into trouble when he adopts some dinosaur eggs to create a makeshift family.

It's Kinda Like: 'Ice Age' meets 'The Land Before Time'

What We Say: The franchise is showing its age; the visual jokes are getting stale and some of the characters are "over the hill": Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano) is an expectant father and Diego the sabre tooth tiger (Denis Leary) gets winded chasing his prey. The folks at Fox have introduced a couple of new characters, a wise-cracking one-eyed weasel and a "love" interest for the sabre-toothed squirrel Scratte, but the creative juice that marked the original is lacking here. For the kids only.

Add to Netflix queue | Buy the DVD | Watch exclusive DVD clip

'Orphan'
What It's About: Married couple Vera Farmiga and Peter Sarsgaard adopt an angelic 9-year-old girl from an orphanage but little Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman) isn't what she seems to be (of course). Whenever there's an accident, Ester seems to be there; when anyone makes her angry, a leg or a head gets mysteriously broken. As the body count mounts, only one person knows the truth, and, in classic horror film style, no one believes her. We do.

It's Kinda Like: 'The Bad Seed' on steroids

What We Say: A straightforward adult horror-thriller with fine direction and cinematography that will keep you on the edge of your seat; after the exploitive trailers teasing the film, we were pleasantly surprised (or shall we say scared). Farmiga holds the film together with her star turn, while newcomer Fuhrman can turn from nice to nasty on a dime; this is one youngster we wouldn't give candy to. For the adults only.

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'Whatever Works'

What It's About: New Yorker Boris Yellnikoff (Larry David) is a misanthropic genius who pretty much hates everything and everyone around him. But when he meets a naive runaway from Mississippi (Evan Rachel Wood) and lets her stay in his apartment, she steals his heart. Things get a bit complicated for this May-December romance when the girl's uptight parents arrive to rescue her.

It's Kinda Like: 'Broadway Danny Rose' meets 'Lolita'

What We Say: Woody Allen is back to his old tricks in New York City, dealing with the anxieties and neuroses that made him famous. This time David ('Curb Your Enthusiasm') stands in for the director, delivering fast-paced monologues on life, death and the absurdities of existence. David is pitch-perfect and Wood amazes with a performance imbued with humor and style. It's a film with heart and soul.

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Other October 27 DVD Releases:
'Nothing Like the Holidays'
'Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure'




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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

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