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DVDs: 'Watchmen,' 'Ballerina,' 'Coraline' and 'The Great Buck Howard'

July 19, 2009|Noel Murray

Watchmen

Warner, $28.98/$34.98; Blu-ray, $35.99

Zack Snyder's big-screen version of Alan Moore's beloved graphic novel "Watchmen" gets the broad strokes right, telling a sexy, blood-spattered story about a band of discredited heroes who reunite to solve the murder of one of their own. But despite some stunning visual effects and a few bravura sequences, the "Watchmen" movie comes off a little flat. Without Moore's complicated narrative structure (or his humor, influenced as much by Mad magazine as old pulps), Snyder's "Watchmen" plays like a very expensive fan video and an example of the adolescent superhero mentality that Moore tried to criticize. Still, whatever the failings of the movie, the features-packed special-edition DVD and Blu-ray are well worth checking out -- especially the latter, which includes an innovative "Maximum Movie Mode" that combines a picture-in-picture commentary with behind-the-scenes footage and art from the comic.

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Ballerina

First Run, $24.95

Though Bertrand Normand's documentary "Ballerina" sports the production values of a state park's visitor center video, this study of five dancers from St. Petersburg's Kirov Ballet is still valuable for its rare look inside a world of intense discipline, deprivation and disappointment. Normand shows the casual cruelty of dance instructors as they run their charges through a combine that reduces them to their bodies alone, not their personalities. "Ballerina's" lone DVD extra is a set of still photos, but the movie itself remains a must for devotees of dance.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, August 02, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 43 words Type of Material: Correction
New DVDs: In the July 19 Calendar listings of new DVDs, "The Great Buck Howard" was said to contain no special features. In fact, it has commentary by director Sean McGinly and star Colin Hanks, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes and three featurettes.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, August 09, 2009 Home Edition Sunday Calendar Part D Page 2 Calendar Desk 1 inches; 42 words Type of Material: Correction
'The Great Buck Howard': A July 19 article about newly issued DVDs indicated that "The Great Buck Howard" contained no special features. It includes a commentary by writer-director Sean McGinly and star Colin Hanks, deleted and extended scenes, outtakes and three featurettes.

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Coraline

Universal, $29.98/$34.98; Blu-ray, $39.98

Animator Henry Selick's adaptation of Neil Gaiman's juvenile novel "Coraline" follows the plight of a preteen girl who moves to a dreary new town and discovers a portal into another realm -- one like her own, but seemingly nicer. The longer Coraline lives in the other world, the more she sees its dark side. Everything about "Coraline" -- including its handmade design and its lively voice-acting -- is absolutely spot-on. It's a story about childhood fantasy worlds that's as knotty and moody as a classic fairy tale. The "Coraline" Blu-ray and special-edition DVD contain 2-D and 3-D versions, along with a set of very short deleted scenes, comprehensive featurettes and an engaging commentary by Selick.

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The Great

Buck Howard

Magnolia, $26.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

More indie films should be like "The Great Buck Howard," a light-but-likable comedy starring John Malkovich as a world-famous mentalist who catches an unexpected upsurge in popularity and proceeds to make the life of his assistant (played by Colin Hanks) singularly miserable. Writer-director Sean McGinly's plot is reminiscent of "My Favorite Year" and "Swimming With Sharks," and it never quite kicks over into a higher gear. But the performances are sharp, and it's nice to see an indie that's neither self-indulgently dour nor overly quirky. The DVD and Blu-ray are less inviting, though; neither offers any special features.

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All titles available Tuesday.

calendar@latimes.com

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