Spin-ematical: New on DVD and Blu-ray for 2/23

The Informant!
Matt Damon plays Matt Whitacre, the cinematic version of a real-life character, a scientist who became the vice-president of a chemical company and then turned informant for the government in the early 1990s. Scott Weinberg described it as a "quietly odd performance." It's also hilarious. Damon hits every note, blending into the story while retaining an innate goodness that makes you root for him even as you slowly realize you probably shouldn't. The story becomes increasingly jaw-dropping, resulting in one of the best movies you haven't seen yet. Directed by Steven Soderbergh. Buy it.

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The Box
"Deliciously bizarre," as I wrote elsewhere. "Richard Kelly's meditation on the meaning of life, masquerades as a slow-boiling mystery thriller. Building on a slender, clever premise dreamed up by the great Richard Matheson in the short story 'Button, Button,' Kelly constructs a wonderfully odd tale that feels like a second cousin to Donnie Darko. ... It contains blissful moments of magical insanit. ... I'd rather have half-baked Richard Kelly psychological science fiction than a fully-baked and utterly routine mystery thriller." With Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, and Frank Langella. Rent it.

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Cirque du Freak: The Vampire's Assistant
"Paul Weitz' film stands tall whether it was made inside or outside this temporary rise in the vamp popularity," wrote Peter Hall in his review for Cinematical. "Remove the cynical marketing climate and The Vampire's Assistant is a charming, imaginative, and most importantly, very entertaining film for children, teens and adults alike." Rent it.

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Also out: the listless Sorority Row, Robert DeNiro in Everybody's Fine, the animated Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths.





'The September Issue' on DVDThe September Issue
R.J. Cutler's documentary explores the making of a magazine, the titular annual issue of Vogue under the leadership of editor-in-chief Anna Wintour. "It delivers those immediate inside pleasures superbly along with the nitty-gritty," wrote James Rocchi in his review. "We get to witness a mix of high fashion and near-fascism with Ms. Wintour as the iron fist inside the stylish hand-stitched calfskin glove."

The Damned United
It's "a portrait of English football coach Brian Clough and his decades-long obsession with the rival club Leeds United," explained Jen Yamato. But it's "anything but the action-packed sports film you might expect. Rather, it's an account of a man desperate for recognition who burned a lot of bridges and made a lot of mistakes on the road to glory."

Flame & Citron
The film "tells the story of two heroes of the Danish resistance to the Nazi occupation," says Eugene Novikov, "but it is far from your typical World War II period piece. Instead, it plays like some unholy, brilliant marriage between spy noir and comic book movie.

Swedish Auto
Writer/director Derek Sieg follows small-town mechanic Lukas Haas in his everyday life as an observer. Mostly he observes the lovely January Jones, but he's also somewhat of a haunted dreamer with ambitions of his own, which don't always coincide with what others think of him in this evocative, gentle yet stirring drama.

Also out: $9.99, Alexander the Last, Bliss, Crude, Captain Abu Raed, The Trade, The Vicious Kind.



'The Crazies' on Blu-rayThe Crazies
A father loses his mind in front of his startled children. And that's the first scene! George A. Romero starts his thriller in a farmhouse located in the isolated rural town of Evans City, Pennsylvania, where an accident has unleashed a virus codenamed "Trixie." A small phalanx of soldiers immediately arrive, and it's quickly revealed that the government is responsible for the virus, which makes the infected lose their grip on sanity. With a cure not yet developed, the President weighs the nuclear option to contain the problems created by "Trixie."

A jolting dose of justifiable paranoia ensues. Romero keeps 95% of the action trapped within the town limits as both the inhabitants and the invading soldiers quickly display symptoms of the deadly virus; open rebellion breaks out. Made in the early 70s, as the Vietnam War continued to rage and President Nixon still held sway over the nation, the film reflects a post-hippie hostility toward authority as well as genuine anger against the Establishment. The pace drifts unexpectedly between boiling point anxiety and doomed resignation.

The Blu-ray version from Blue Underground, timed for release to coincide with the remake due out on Friday, is presented in a newly transferred and fully restored high definition edition. Key features from the company's DVD release have been carried over: an audio commentary with director Romero, an interview with co-star Lynn Lowry, theatrical trailers and TV spots. The special features remain in standard definition. The DVD also included a poster and still gallery, and a Romero biography, which are not listed in the Blu-ray edition.



Make Way for Tomorrow

Eclipse Series 20 - George Bernard Shaw On Film (Major Barbara / Caesar and Cleopatra / Androcles and the Lion) (Criterion Collection)

Howards End (Criterion Collection)