What makes Christopher Nolan's Batman Begins (Warner Bros.) work? It's partly the way it doesn't really need the decades of Batman mythos that made it possible. Taken on its own terms, it's a thoroughly satisfying action melodrama about a man whose quest for revenge points him in the direction of an even higher calling. The film has as much respect for the man beneath the costume as for the costume itself. Which isn't to say it's short on superhero action. It just takes a thoughtful route to it…

Batman Begins revived the Batman film series after an eight-year wait necessitated by Batman And Robin, the awful-beyond-words film that tainted the entire series. Batman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1989-1997 (Warner Bros.) collects the original tetralogy, giving each a double-disc set. It almost goes without saying that Tim Burton's Batman and Batman Returns hold up best. Both play to Burton's strengths (visual design, big characters, bigger themes) while patching over his weaknesses (plot and complicated psychology). They stand in stark contrast to Nolan's approach, but work quite well on their own terms. Then there's Joel Schumacher's Batman Forever and Batman And Robin. Yep…

But the best story of detection and redemption to hit the DVD shelves in recent weeks involves a high-schooler trying to clear her dad's soiled reputation and solve the murder of her best friend. Watching the six-disc Veronica Mars: The Complete First Season (Warner Bros.), it's hard to single out one defining quality that makes the Rob Thomas-created UPN series great. So here are a bunch: Joss-Whedon-sharp dialogue, beautifully realized relationships, a rare sense of class consciousness, an appealing cast, mysteries that keep their secrets, and Kristen Bell's lead performance as a smart, take-no-shit kid who's been kicked around by life and come out the wiser for it. Catch it, then jump into season two…

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For every political season, there's a George Romero zombie movie. Though Romero's Land Of The Dead (Universal) failed to capture the popular imagination—and this at a time when every crap horror movie that comes down the pike debuts at number one at the box office—it's hard to imagine a more potent allegory about U.S. intervention in Iraq and the broadening racial and class divides under the Bush administration. And did we mention the zombies?

Part of the current documentary boom, Mad Hot Ballroom (Paramount) played for months at arthouses across the country, but would it be too much to ask for these Cinderella sensations to be a little more substantial? Sure, preteen foxtrotters are irresistible, but it's better to have them on DVD, where their accomplishments are put in diverting perspective.

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