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New on DVD, August 12, 2008

What to Netflix: New DVD Tuesday

All of the new DVD releases hit stores (and Netflix) on Tuesdays. So each week in What to Netflix: New DVD Tuesday, I sort through the best of the batch and tell you what to add to your queue.


Smart People
I had high hopes for Smart People, mainly due to the stellar cast that includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Ellen Page, Thomas Haden Church, and Dennis Quaid.

The story takes place near the Carnegie Mellon campus and centers around a family headed by a widowed professor (Quaid) who are all having a terrible time relating to each other and the outside world, despite how book smart they are. When the professor's free-spirited brother (Church) crashes into their lives they all start to thaw out a bit and discover how far a little humanity can go.

The movie didn't quite meet my expectations but it's certainly a worthwhile rental if you're looking for a few laughs and a genuinely talented ensemble cast.

Special features include interviews with the producers, cast and crew of the movie, commentary from the director and writer, a collection of outtakes, nine deleted scenes and exclusive footage from the premiere of Smart People at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.

Two more new options on DVD if you read more.


The Wire: Season Five
I still have not totally come to grips with the fact that this final season of The Wire was overlooked by Emmy voters. The show has spent years as one of the most consistently well reviewed shows on television, though its ratings were never high. Today the final piece of the puzzle, the show's fifth season, is out on DVD, and marks the final chapter of David Simon's epic saga about Baltimore with a critical look at the media.

The season got more criticism than most (maybe because the media had to see themselves, rather than police officers or teachers, through Simon's bleak lens), but that didn't make it any less satisfying for me. The 10 episodes wrap up many of the stories Simon and series co-creator Ed Burns had been working on for years, and even at the end, nothing about The Wire is ever too neat or tidy. Once again, the lines between good guys and bad guys end up blurred, and that's a big part of what makes the show so captivating.

Special features include "The Wire Odyssey: A Retrospective of the First Four Seasons," "The Wire: The Last Word — A Documentary Exploring the Role of the Media," and six audio commentaries with Simon and members of the cast and crew.


How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer
I just happened to read something yesterday about how difficult it is for studios to embrace and market smart movies that are for and about women, even after the huge success of Sex and the City. So, it's an interesting coincidence that an example of this phenomenon is out on DVD today. I hardly heard anything about this film, even though it received an 84% on RottenTomatoes and stars one of Hollywood's biggest young stars. What the heck?

Anyway, How the Garcia Girls Spent Their Summer is about three generations of Mexican women grappling with issues of romance and sexuality — at all stages of life. It looks compelling, thoughtful and relatable and I, for one, am stoked to see this. The movie stars America Ferrera, Elizabeth Peña, Lucy Gallardo, and Eliana Alexander and was screened in competition at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. (Yeah: 2005! Sheesh.)

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