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Wright’s ‘Anna Karenina’ one of century’s best films

This week’s DVD releases include two Oscar-nominated films.

• “Anna Karenina,” Grade A: Keira Knightley stars in the latest film adaptation of Leo Tolstoy’s classic novel.

Movies like “Anna Karenina” are what people mean when they talk about Hollywood magic. Director Joe Wright has taken the much-told tale of the late 19th-century Russian heroine and cast a cinematic spell to make his film version as compelling as it is creative.

Wright elevates the movie beyond the typical trappings of the genre by the way he staged the production. He’s created a theater space where the action weaves on and off the stage. It’s as if he’s found the previously unknown art form created by the union of a movie, stage production and ballet.

It’s not only one of the best and most beautifully staged movies of the past year, it easily belongs in that category for any movies released since the start of the 21st century.

• “Argo,” Grade A-: An agent poses as a filmmaker to save six Americans during the Iran hostage crisis in this Oscar-nominated film for Best Picture. Ben Affleck stars and directs the film.

The plot sounds like a rejected plot line for “Mission: Impossible.” If the film weren’t based on a real story, the audacity and absurdity of what transpires would be almost too ridiculous even in a fictional story. But this fact-based story ends up as compelling and as exciting as any adventure James Bond ever had.

Affleck has shown again with his solid direction of “Argo” that he’s not just another actor who wants to sit in the director’s chair. His latest work is a brilliant blend of a first-rate story delivered with skill and attention to detail. He always get the most out of his actors, story and visuals.

• “Sinister,” Grade D-: Home movies spark a nightmare experience for a family.

There are three ways to generate scares in a horror film: smart writing, a creepy filming style or an interesting creature. The better these elements, the better the film. “Sinister” fails on all three counts.

The closest thing to a scare is when director Scott Derrickson has the creature jump into a scene accompanied by a loud sound. Yes, it startles. But being startled and being scared are not the same.

Also new on DVD

“Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season”: Superb cable series starring Peter Dinklage.

“Top Gun”: The film about hot shot pilots is available in 3-D. Tom Cruise stars.

“Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome”: Takes place in the midst of the first Cylon war.

“Fun Size”: A teen tries to find her missing little brother at a Halloween party.

“The Six Million Dollar Man: Season 3”: Lee Majors plays the man with robotic parts.

“Special Forces”: A war correspondent must be saved.

“Swamp People: Season 3”: More tales of the Cajun characters.

“Top Gear: 50 Years of Bond Cars”: Richard Hammond celebrates spy vehicles.

“The Nest”: Cockroaches overrun a quiet town.

“The Mooring”: Girls headed to summer camp get stranded in the woods.

“The Factory”: Twisted thriller starring John Cusack.

“The Thief of Bagdad”: The 1924 film starring Douglas Fairbanks is available on Blu-ray.

“Atlas Shrugged: Part II”: A revolutionary motor could be the solution to economic problems.

“The Garfield Show: Spring Fun Collection”: Animated tales of the troublesome cat.

“The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams: Season Two”: Dan Haggerty stars.

“Lake Placid: The Final Chapter”: The crocs are back.

“Prison”: A prison becomes a supernatural battleground.

“Barney Loves You”: Collection includes “We Love Our Family” and “You Can Be Anything.”

“Riddle”: College student is drawn to a mysterious small town.

“The Great Magician”: Magician uses his tricks to save his assistant.

“Hats Off to Dr. Seuss Collector’s Edition”: Includes five of the author’s tales.

“Missions That Changed the War: The Doolittle Raid”: Gary Sinise narrates the documentary.

“Thomas & Friends: Full Steam Ahead”: Comes with a toy engine.

“Adventure Time: Fionna and Cake”: Features 16 episodes from seasons two, three and four.

“Dinosaur Train”: Four stories about sea creatures that lived during the “Age of Dinosaurs.”

“Naked City: 20 Star-Filled Episodes”: The TV series aired from 1958 to 1963.

“Sushi Girl”: Mark Hamill stars.

“Puppy Love”: Two strangers are brought together by an unruly pup.

“Junior High Spy”: A young man goes on a mission to save his kidnapped father.

“4 Assassins”: Four colleagues reunite in a dangerous face-off.

“Top Gear: The Complete Second Season”: Car show featuring Adam Ferrara.

“The Package”: A man must hand-deliver a secret package to a crime lord.

“Seeds of Destruction”: Prehistoric seed unleashes root system that rips through Nevada.


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