DVDs in Brief

Stripping the Bond series down to its bare essentials—and maybe not coincidentally, stripping star Daniel Craig down to his bare essentials too—Casino Royale (MGM) invested the series with a grit and urgency it never found in even the best Pierce Brosnan entries. It doesn't hurt that Craig looks like a man who could really do some damage, but that's far from the only element that makes this a successful reboot…

Romantic comedies are painful enough without the characters referring to themselves as if they were characters in a romantic comedy, but lines like "I enjoyed my meet-cute" cut to the synthetic soul of Nancy Meyers' The Holiday (Sony), a piece of calculating dreck that embarrasses every member of its first-rate cast. Meyers even has the audacity to exalt an Old Hollywood screenwriter who complains that they don't make 'em like they used to. No kidding…

A liberated follow-up to Hedwig And The Angry Inch, John Cameron Mitchell's Shortbus (ThinkFilm) fulfills the long-tabled dream that adult films would gain some legitimacy and permanence on American screens after the brief XXX craze in the '70s. And in its limited release, the film did crack the floodgates a little, bringing adventurous moviegoers of all stripes into the theater. The sex scenes are full of acrobatics and "aberrant" couplings, yet they aren't off-putting. And not just because they're sexy, but because they're real in other respects, too; the characters are trying to find pleasure and sometimes love, but they don't always get there in conventional ways, if they even get there at all…

Edgy screenwriter David Ayer (Training Day) makes his directorial debut with Harsh Times (Weinstein Company), an alternately tough and ridiculous thriller with Christian Bale as a Gulf War veteran who spends his days job-hunting with buddy Freddy Rodríguez. But since Bale is certain he's already got a job lined up with the LAPD, he keeps persuading Rodríguez to ditch the search and come along on epic benders that inevitably lead to fool's errands. Ayer falls into the trap of thinking excessive violence equals profound meaning, but Bale is fun to watch, and for a while at least, Harsh Times is thrillingly hard to predict.

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