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DVDs in Brief - February 18, 2009


For a topical thriller directed by Ridley Scott and starring such huge movie stars as Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe, Body Of Lies (Warner Bros.) slipped out of public consciousness surprisingly quickly. Though it’s a more tightly packaged, comprehensible thriller than Syriana, its depiction of American chicanery in the Middle East never gains much political urgency. Only Crowe’s work as an insidious CIA operative with a Foghorn Leghorn demeanor has any lasting resonance…

Principled atheists could probably use a better spokesman than Bill Maher, who spends much of his editorial documentary Religulous (Lionsgate) ambushing the dumbest and most extreme representatives of religion, such as an Orthodox Jew who invents mechanical loopholes for Shabbat, or the guy who plays Jesus at a Christian theme park. Yet for all its burning of straw men, the film builds to an unearned but powerful, direct repudiation of organized religion and the tragic cost of its irrational tenets…

The premise of Changeling (Warner Bros.), the first of two 2008 films from the prolific Clint Eastwood (the other being Gran Torino), has a compelling hook: In 1928, a single mother in Los Angeles, played by the Oscar-nominated Angelina Jolie, loses her 9-year-old son. Months later, she gets the happy news that he’s turned up in Illinois, but when the police reunite them, she discovers he’s the wrong kid. Much like Eastwood’s Flags Of Our Fathers, the film delves into a based-in-reality case where a government- and media-driven narrative supplanted the truth…

Hounddog (Hanover)attained instant notoriety as the “Dakota Fanning rape movie,” then became a punchline after it failed to find a distributor in spite of being one of the most talked-about movies at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival. After much re-editing, Hounddog was finally released last year to scathing reviews and negligible box office. Though it has atmosphere to spare and a stunning lead performance by Fanning as a sexually precocious child growing up in the deep South, it ultimately collapses into a heap of Southern-gothic clichés, epitomized by David Morse’s unintentionally hilarious performance as a nudity-prone idiot man-child who done got struck by lightning what frazzled his mind-grapes…

Quarantine(Sony) rode the zombie craze and horror vérité/frightumentary bandwagon to sleeper hitdom last year. But the conventions of this peculiar subgenre eventually prove maddening, especially the cameraman who won’t put down his camera and run away from the obvious threats running amok in a hotel threatened by terrifying flesh-eating ghouls from within, and gun-toting G-men intent on enforcing a quarantine from without.