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New on DVD, May 13, 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. In addition to the titles below you can now rent the Diane Lane thriller Untraceable, Francis Ford Coppola's Youth Without Youth, and Mad Money.

The Great Debaters
The Great Debaters stars Denzel Washington (who also directs), Forest Whitaker and newcomer Nate Parker in a movie that is maybe formulaic but also poignant and powerfully acted. As I pointed out in my review, the film borrows the the same elements of storytelling you find in underdog sports movies and inspirational teacher movies. However the film, based on a true story, is no less inspiring thanks to some moving performances.

The movie takes place in Texas circa 1935 when schools were segregated and economic times were hard all around. A group of young black college students work to become a debate team worthy of challenging Harvard. Washington plays the hard-driving debate team coach who encourages his students to succeed. You've definitely seen this all before in one form or another, but it's a great family rental with an inspirational message. The movie was honored earlier this year with an NAACP Award to boot.

Special features include deleted scenes and featurettes titled, "The Great Debaters: An Historical Perspective," and "Learning the Art: Our Young Actors Go to Debate Camp."

One more release to go so

Autism: The Musical
I have been curious about this documentary ever since it showed at the 2007 Tribeca Film Festival and I'm so glad it's out on DVD now, as I missed its airing on HBO a couple of months ago. The film has earned high praise and was even one of the Academy's 15 documentaries considered for an Oscar nod.

As Netflix puts it, the documentary follows "five autistic children as they develop and rehearse The Miracle Project, an original musical about autism." Between this flick and The Great Debaters I'd say you've got yourself a great family movie night here.

Special features include deleted scenes, a featurette called, "About Autism Speaks" and a filmmaker biography.

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