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As slick as thieves

Handsome heist crew returns in super-smart 'Ocean's Twelve'

DVD Digest

Steven Soderbergh's "Ocean's Twelve" (Warner, 125 mins., PG-13, $27.95, out Tuesday) took heat from some critics and fans of "Ocean's Eleven" when it opened. But the comedy thriller is every bit as funny, stylish and smart as the original. Maybe too smart: Centered on a plan to heist a Faberge egg, the movie jumps back and forth in time and locale, brings in mysterious new characters, and piles on information. It requires full attention.

Master thief Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and the old gang (Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Don Cheadle, Elliott Gould and the rest) are brought back together, not by choice, but by necessity. The Vegas casino boss (Andy Garcia) from whom they stole $160 million in the first film has tracked them down and set a very serious deadline for the return of his money, plus interest. The boys, who have spent a good chunk of the stolen dough, must devise a scheme fast — and must elude a sharp police detective (Catherine Zeta-Jones.)

Besides the cool planning and execution of robberies, there are priceless comic riffs, notably involving the Damon character's sensitive nature, as well as self-referential Hollywood in-jokes, most brilliantly a gag involving co-star Julia Roberts. The snazzy music's great, too.

The DVD is free of extras.

A savior in Rwanda

Don Cheadle's Oscar-nominated portrayal of Paul Rusesabagina is the chief reason for seeing "Hotel Rwanda," an earnest, fact-based drama about the mass killings in Rwanda in 1994. Arriving on DVD Tuesday (MGM, 122 mins., PG-13, $26.98), the movie recounts a vital story but does so with the mundane obviousness of a TV movie.

Paul, the assistant manager of the four-star Hotel des Milles Collines in Kigali, is a confident charmer who never fails to satisfy his wealthy customers and his Belgian bosses at the Sabena hotel chain. He tries not to look too closely at the looming signs of ethnic genocide, but soon the troubles are literally brought to his doorstep, as members of the minority Tutsi people seek refuge at the hotel from the machetes of the rampaging Hutu rebels.

As in "Schindler's List," the hero elicits military help with money, liquor and other bribes. (And like Schindler, Rusesabagina is credited with saving some 1,200 people.)

Nick Nolte plays a well-meaning Canadian officer in the UN peace-keeping force (who, oddly, seems to report to Rusesabagina), and Joaquin Phoenix is on hand as a Western TV journalist, but both characters are underwritten clichés. Sophie Okonedo, also Oscar-nominated, has much more nuance as Paul's distressed wife.

Director and co-writer Terry George (who wrote "In the Name of the Father") and the real Rusesabagina provide a joint commentary on the DVD, while another audio track has the soft-spoken Cheadle commenting on about 20 minutes' worth of scenes. There's also a moving featurette following Rusesabagina (who now lives in Belgium) back to Rwanda for the first time since the slaughter.

Pedro pushes some buttons

Pedro Almodóvar's "Bad Education" caused controversy on its release last fall because of its sexual content and a plot involving a pedophile priest. But the ­movie is much more than an exposé of a social problem.

A young filmmaker, Enrique (Fele Martínez), is struggling to find an idea for his next movie, when into his office walks Ignacio (Gael García Bernal), his "first love" during their Catholic boarding school days. They haven't seen each other in 16 years, and Enrique can't believe this is the boy he once knew.

Ignacio has written a short story that he wants Enrique to film. The tale is autobiographical in its account of their boyhood relationship, but fictional when it follows the hero into adulthood. That adult lead is a transvestite entertainer, and Bernal appears in drag in the film within the film.

The DVD, out Tuesday (Sony, 105 mins., NC-17, $29.96), has an especially analytical commentary by Almodóvar; it's as if he were a critic parsing someone else's film. The commentary, like the movie, is in Spanish and subtitled.

New Releases

THE WOODSMAN (Sony, 87 mins., R, $26.96) Kevin Bacon stars in this low-budget actor's showcase as a pedophile who, newly released from prison, glumly reenters life by working at a Philadelphia lumberyard. Bacon's wife, Kyra Sedgwick, plays an interested co-worker. The DVD has a brief interview with producer Lee Daniels and commentary by director Nicole Kassell.

CRIMINAL (Warner, 87 mins., R, $27.95) A veteran con man (John C. Reilly) and a novice partner (Diego Luna) work a scam on a collector of rare currency. Maggie Gyllenhaal co-stars in this remake of an Argentinean film. No DVD extras.

DIG! (Palm, 107 mins., R, $24.98) A documentary about the strange, sad music industry. Indie rock bands the Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Dandy Warhols make a splash at the same time in the mid-'90s, but while one group finds commercial success, the other sinks. The double DVD has commentaries by both bands and the filmmakers; two hours of unseen footage; music videos; live performances, and more.

SUSPECT ZERO (Paramount, 99 mins., R, $29.99) Ben Kingsley adds to his latter-day collection of shrewd psychopaths, playing a serial killer who confounds an FBI agent (Aaron Eckhart). Among several disk bonuses is commentary by director E. Elias Merhige ("Shadow of the Vampire").

Now on DVD

THE BOB NEWHART SHOW (Fox, 10 1/2 hours, $29.98) Bob Newhart took his signature standup bit — a passive guy on the phone reacting to the (unheard) person on the other end — and adapted it for his first classic sitcom, in which he plays a Chicago group therapist who must listen to all sorts of strange babble. All 24 episodes from the first season (1972-73) are on three disks.

VIVA LA BAM (Paramount, 5 1/2 hours, $49.99) Bam Margera of "Jackass" stars in this MTV "reality" series in which he relentlessly pulls pranks on his parents. This set contains the second and third seasons.

Originally published on April 10, 2005

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