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'Quantum of Solace'; 'Andy Richter Controls The Universe: The Complete Series'; 'In Treatment: Season One'; 'Praying With Lior'; 'Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter'

March 22, 2009

Quantum of Solace

MGM, $29.99/$34.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

Picking up where "Casino Royale" left off, the latest James Bond adventure sees the suave secret agent dealing not with cartoonish supervillains but with the more morally ambiguous world of macroeconomics and geopolitics. The novelty of this down-to-earth, humanly flawed Bond has worn off a little, and it hurts that director Marc Forster doesn't come up with much in the way of memorable set pieces. But Daniel Craig is still magnetic as the hero, and Mathieu Amalric matches up against him well as the low-key, casually evil villain.

"Quantum of Solace" isn't classic Bond, but it's a solid, sophisticated action movie. The double-disc DVD and Blu-ray editions are equally workmanlike, with only a handful of special features.

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Andy Richter Controls The Universe: The Complete Series

Paramount, $39.98

Since Andy Richter left "Late Night With Conan O'Brien" in 2000, he's had difficulty catching on as a sitcom star -- though not for lack of quality projects. For two years and 19 episodes, "Andy Richter Controls the Universe" cast the whimsical comic as a daydreaming technical writer, passing the time at his humdrum corporate job by hanging out with his friends and imagining outlandish scenarios for them all.

It wasn't a laugh-out-loud kind of show, but it was highly imaginative and sweetly deranged -- sort of halfway between "Scrubs" and "Arrested Development."

The complete series DVD set includes commentary tracks on selected episodes and a pair of infectious featurettes.

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In Treatment: Season One

HBO, $59.99

Based on an Israeli TV series, HBO's "In Treatment" takes an offbeat approach to serialized drama, setting each episode entirely in a therapist's office as one patient spills his or her guts. (Further twist: Every fifth episode, the therapist, played by Gabriel Byrne, talks to his shrink.) All 43 episodes of "In Treatment: Season One" are now available in a features-free DVD box set, but 21 hours of engaging, well-acted entertainment for a relatively low price is itself a pretty special feature.

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Praying With Lior

First Run, $24.95

Ilana Trachtman's moving, thought-provoking documentary "Praying With Lior" is about a Jewish teenager with Down syndrome whose devotion to the faith has been an inspiration to his family of rabbis and their congregation. While tracking the buildup to Lior Liebling's bar mitzvah, Trachtman ponders whether her subject is capable of such deep religious understanding -- or if he might be more capable than those who second-guess and overthink. The "Praying With Lior" DVD includes bonus interviews that follow up with Liebling's family, four years later.

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Watchmen: Tales of the Black Freighter

Warner, $27.95; Blu-ray, $35.99

Later this year, Warner Bros. is reportedly planning to release an extended version of its epic superhero tale "Watchmen," incorporating some elements that were in Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons' graphic novel -- including scenes from a pirate comic that one character reads throughout the book.

That comic has been reproduced in full as the 25-minute animated short "Tales of the Black Freighter," available on DVD and Blu-ray alongside the "from within the Watch- men universe" mockumentary "Under the Hood."

The cartoon is well-made, but the prize of the set is "Under the Hood," which fills in some of the "Watchmen" characters' back stories. The discs also include a half-hour featurette about how these pieces fit into the "Watchmen" book and movie.

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All releases available Tuesday unless otherwise noted.

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