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NEW ON DVD

'W.'; 'Blindness'; 'Frozen River'; 'Miracle at St. Anna'; 'Nights in Rodanthe'

February 08, 2009|Noel Murray

W.

Lionsgate, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99

Divorced from the cable news cycles of the '08 presidential campaign, Oliver Stone's loosey-goosey George W. Bush biopic looks less slanted and more like an effort to capture an epoch before it fades. "W." flounders whenever Stone and screenwriter Stanley Weiser turn famous administration quotes -- "shock and awe," "axis of evil," etc. -- into loaded dialogue. But the dramatization of Bush's wild youth and maturation process is a fine example of Stone's politics-as-theater tactics, aided immeasurably by Josh Brolin's funny, moving lead performance. The "W." DVD and Blu-ray add a Stone commentary, deleted scenes and two featurettes: one about Bush, one about the film.

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Blindness

Miramax, $29.99

When an epidemic of blindness strikes an unnamed metropolis, the victims are quarantined and ultimately develop a volatile makeshift society. Jose Saramago's novel "Blindness" offers a multilayered allegory, but director Fernando Meirelles' movie version -- written by Don McKellar -- is ridiculous, literalizing the pulpier aspects of Saramago's plot. Meirelles makes some interesting stylistic choices, but it's awfully hard to get past the surface goofiness. The DVD adds a number of deleted scenes and an hourlong making-of.

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Frozen River

Sony, $28.96; Blu-ray, $39.95

Melissa Leo snagged an Oscar nomination for her lead performance in writer-director Courtney Hunt's debut film. Leo plays a barely-holding-on single mother in a northern border community. To raise money for a new double-wide trailer, she dabbles in human trafficking, driving illegal immigrants across the Canadian border. "Frozen River's" small-town trailer-park wallowing is overdone, but the story of one woman's slide into amorality is nightmarish and Leo is astonishing. It's too bad she's not on the DVD and Blu-ray commentary track, which features only Hunt and producer Heather Rae.

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Miracle at St. Anna

Touchstone, $29.99; Blu-ray, $34.99

Rarely does a major filmmaker stumble as badly as Spike Lee does with his World War II action-drama "Miracle at St. Anna." Ostensibly the story of an African American platoon being used by their superiors as bait for the Nazis in Italy, "Miracle" aims to be a corrective to all the WWII movies that have left blacks out of the historical narrative. But Lee and screenwriter James McBride (adapting his own novel) introduce broad comedy and thick-stroke depictions of racism. Lee has made some of the best films of the past decade; "Miracle at St. Anna" is best forgotten.

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Nights in Rodanthe

Warner, $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99

Richard Gere and Diane Lane, previously paired for the hit "Unfaithful," reunite for director George C. Wolfe's adaptation of Nicholas Sparks' "Nights in Rodanthe," about a divorced surgeon who stays at a coastal inn during a storm and winds up falling in love. It's a simple story, rendered with maximum melodrama.

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