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70 years of L.A. on display

February 15, 2009|Noel Murray

Changeling

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.98

It wasn't as big a hit as "Gran Torino," but "Changeling" is in many ways the best of the 2008 Clint Eastwood- directed films. The performances are superior -- especially Angelina Jolie's Oscar-nominated turn as a single mother coping with the aftermath of a botched missing-child investigation -- and the story is wider in scope, encompassing police corruption and gender politics in '30s Los Angeles. The Blu-ray adds a special feature that compares L.A. from the '30s to now. The DVD adds only two Jolie-specific featurettes.

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Body of Lies

Warner, $28.98/$34.99; Blu-ray, $35.99

A few years ago, a big-budget action thriller directed by Ridley Scott and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe would've been a sensation. Instead, this story of a CIA operative and his morally ambiguous mentor suffered from a general cultural fatigue with war movies and Scott-style visual bombast. Perhaps now that "Body of Lies" is on DVD and Blu-ray, viewers can enjoy the movie for the smartly written, two-fisted combat flick it is. Both discs include deleted scenes, a lengthy behind-the-scenes documentary and a commentary with Scott, "Lies" novelist David Ignatius and screenwriter William Monahan.

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Choke

20th Century Fox, $27.98

As Chuck Palahniuk adaptations go, "Choke" doesn't have the depth or kick of "Fight Club," but writer-director Clark Gregg is to be commended for turning Palahniuk's story of a sex-addicted con artist (and historical reenactor) into a fluid, at-times- poignant comedy. Or maybe the credit should go to Sam Rockwell, who plays "Choke's" lovable creep with just the right mix of guile and heart. Rockwell also shines on the "Choke" DVD's entertaining commentary track (shared with Gregg), and in the disc's handful of deleted scenes and bloopers. And Gregg acquits himself nicely in a brief-but-thoughtful conversation with Palahniuk.

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High School Musical 3: Senior Year

Disney, $29.99/$34.99; Blu-ray, $39.99

The Disney Channel movie "High School Musical" has won the hearts of countless teenager-obsessed youngsters with its elemental story of caste-jumping and dream-following among sparkling-clean suburban adolescents. The third film in the series -- and the first to be released theatrically -- bids farewell to soft-featured cutie Zac Efron and indistinctly ethnic brainiac Vanessa Hudgens. Although it lacks the effervescence of the original, director Kenny Ortega maintains a light touch and breezy pace. The "HSM3" Blu-ray and double-disc DVD editions contain an extended version of the film, plus multiple featurettes.

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Religulous

Lionsgate, $29.95

In "Religulous," firebrand comedian Bill Maher delivers a stand-up routine masquerading as a documentary, in which he rants about the dangers of organized religion and lets his interview subjects talk long enough only to make them look stupid. The movie's methodology is more than a little unfair, and the premise off-balance, but the movie is funny. Maher's pro-atheism points -- though likely familiar to anyone who ever sat around a dorm room talking God -- are worth reasserting. Maher might be preaching to the converted here (so to speak), but even religion-haters deserve a liturgy. The "Religulous" DVD amps up the Maher, with a commentary track (also featuring director Larry Charles) and bonus Maher monologues.

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Also this week

Flash of Genius

Universal, $29.98

How to Lose Friends & Alienate People

MGM, $27.98

Quarantine

Sony, $28.96; Blu-ray, $39.95

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