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— Recent DVD releases:

Capitalism: A Love Story (R, 127 minutes) - Michael Moore continues his career as provocateur with this often eloquent, occasionally muddled, bill of particulars which indicts Wall Street’s ethos of greed. As with most of Moore’s documentaries, the film is strongest when he’s behind the camera, rather than in front of it with a bullhorn. DVD extras: featurettes; deleted scenes. Grade: 86

Cold Souls (PG-13, 113 minutes) - A shaggy dog story about an unhappy but driven actor (Paul Giamatti) who decides to have his soul extracted because it interferes with his career, Sophie Barthes’ Cold Souls doesn’t quite cohere around its squishy metaphysical center, and sometimes swings erratically from meditative essay to screwball surrealism. Still, Barthes has delivered about 80 percent of a great film that feels unfinished, as though it can’t quite support the weightof its conceits. But it’s more than a good debut movie; it announces the arrival of an intriguing, impressive new filmmaker whose apprehension has yet to catch up with her ambitions. With Emily Watson and David Strathairn.

Grade: 88

Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (G, 104 minutes) - Lasse Hallstrom delivers a warm and winning family movie about a scholar (Richard Gere) who discovers a lost Akita puppy on his way home from work. Loosely based on the truelife story of the Japanese dog Hachiko, who met his master every evening after work at the Shibuya train station. (After the master died, Hachiko continued to show up at the station every day at the appointed time for nearly a decade. After the dog died, his stuffed remains were installed in the National Science Museum of Japan, and a statue erected in his honor.)With Joan Allen and Jason Alexander.

Grade: 85

Planet 51 (PG, 91 minutes) - In terms of animation, Planet 51 is out of this world. Then there’s the story and the characters, which are about as dull as a dirty penny. It concerns American astronaut Capt. Charles “Chuck” Baker (voice of Dwayne Johnson), a handsome, fullof-himself hotshot who lands on a planet named Glipforg under the impression that he’s the first - and certainly the most fabulous - organism to arrive there. Wrong.He and his robot probe, the appropriately named Rover, soon find out that Glipforg is heavily populated with happy creatures whose worst fear is the arrival of space invaders who will eat their brains. Bonus features include extended scenes, featurettes, animation progression reels and a music video montage.

Grade: 79

Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire (R, 109 minutes) - Most notable for the performances of newcomer and Oscar nominee Gabourey Sidibe as the titular Precious, an obese and pregnant 16-year-old, and Mo’Nique, who won the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance as her abusive mother. Set in 1980s Harlem, the film would be just another inspirational tearjerker were it not for the dedication of the performers and the visual audacity of director Lee Daniels (also Oscar-nominated). DVD extras include Daniels’ commentary, featurettes and Sidibe’s screen test. Grade: 89

The Stoning of Soraya M. (R, 116 minutes) - Undermined by a weak, phony-feeling ending, Cyrus Nowrasteh’s film is nevertheless a pitiless study of moral cowardice. Set in rural Iran in 1986, the film is based on an actual case where a woman was stoned to death after being falsely accusedof adultery by her husband.

Grade: 87

Up in the Air (R, 109 minutes) - Gently devastating, Jason Reitman’s latest is a movie of great grace and modest aspirations that plays as dry comedy but resounds with tragic gravity. Ryan Bingham (an impeccably cast George Clooney) values his light-footed lifestyle as a corporate hit man who specializes in downsizing longterm employees for triggershy managers. His life seems perfected when he meets his near-equal, fellow road warrior Alex (Vera Farmiga).Soon they’re arranging their schedules to rendezvous in airport hotels all over the country. Enter the young usurper, Natalie (Anna Kendrick), who thinks it’s even more effective to fire workers over the Internet. There is an undeniable sense of the moment in Up in the Air, heightened by the filmmakers’ use of recently fired nonactors in some small roles. Though it’s never articulated, Ryan seems determined to grant his victims a full measure of dignity, to the extent that he seems to stand in weird solidarity with them against the faceless forces that deprive them of their meaning.

Grade: 90

MovieStyle, Pages 39 on 03/12/2010

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