There's plenty of timeshifting this week as our DVD picks travel from the flashback world of 'Jane Eyre' in the mid-19th century, to Civil War America and a wide-ranging conspiracy surrounding the assassination of President Lincoln in 'The Conspirator,' to an alternate universe where vampires and humans fight each other for the remaining spoils of a ravaged future Earth in 'Priest.' Plus there's some great Blu-ray debuts this week: 'The Big Lebowski,' 'Cul-de-sac' and 'The Killing.' Read on.
'Jane Eyre'
What It's About: The classic 1847 novel jumps off the screen in this delightful version that is at once scary and sweet. Told in flashback form, this Jane Eyre follows the orphan's travails as, despised by her aunt and eventually sent off to a charity girl's school, she puts up with horrible conditions, finally leaving to procure a job as a governess for wealthy Edward Rochester. But complications arise as she falls in love with her master, only to be devastated when her marriage to him is prevented by a horrible secret, forcing her to act decisively to secure her own future and come to terms with her own past.

It's Kinda Like: 'Rebecca' meets 'Wuthering Heights'

What We Say: A wonderful new interpretation of Charlotte Brontë's classic that alters the novel's structure but not the emotional impact of the characters or the scenarios. Mia Wasikowska is a perfect Jane Eyre -- not overly pretty but still striking in her looks and demeanor; she pulls you into her character as you feel her pain and discomfort -- and stoicness. And Michael Fassbender scores well as the troubled Rochester. An auspciouis outing for director Cary Fukunaga. If you thought there were already two many 'Jane Eyres' out there, you'd be wrong.

• Extras: A couple weak of behind-the-scenes featurettes, commentary, an interesting documentary on the film's score.
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What It's About: A post-apocalyptic sci-fi thriller set in an alternate world -- one ravaged by centuries of war between man and vampires. The story revolves around a legendary Warrior Priest from the last Vampire War who now lives in obscurity among the other downtrodden human inhabitants in walled-in dystopian cities ruled by the Church. When his niece is abducted by a murderous pack of vampires, Priest breaks his sacred vows to venture out on a quest to find her before they turn her into one of them.

It's Kinda Like: 'The Searchers' meets 'Blade'

What We Say: The above comparison is not a glib one: This mash-up vampire-post-apocalyptic Western owes so much to 'The Searchers' that it's hard to watch the film without noting the John Ford tropes that appear throughout its unfolding -- from the original kidnapping, through the lessons of the hunt, to the vow by Priest Paul Bettany to kill his niece if she has been "turned" into a "familiar" by the vampires. That aside, 'Priest' moves along briskly with the expected special effects, nasty vampires, treacherous humans, and all the accoutrements of modern vampire-zombie hunter films. Nothing spectacular -- just good, bloody fun.

• Extras: Commentary, making-of featurettes, deleted and extended scenes.
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'The Conspirator'
What It's About: In the wake of the assassination of President Lincoln in 1865, eight people are charged with conspiring to kill the president, vice president and Secretary of State. The lone woman accused, Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), owns the boarding house where the attack was planned. Faced with a certain death, Surratt's only hope comes in the form of a newly minted lawyer and Union war hero, Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy), who reluctantly agrees to defend Surratt before a military tribunal. As the courtroom trial unfolds, Aiken realizes his client may be innocent and that she is being used as bait in order to capture the only conspirator to have escaped a massive manhunt, her son.

It's Kinda Like: 'All the President's Men' meets 'JFK'

What We Say: Director Robert Redford takes a well-known piece of American history and, though he gives the scenario an air of reality and verisimilitude -- he captures the period perfectly -- he puts a 21st century spin on the proceedings by highlighting the real conspiracy afoot here -- that of a government that cheats, lies, buys off witnesses and generally breaks the law to frame a woman to get to her son -- and to bring peace to and closure to a troubled nation. It would be a powerful, revisionist look at American history -- a history so clouded in fable and half-truths that people salute the myth and not the reality -- if it weren't so darn slow and plodding. Redford is definitely not at his best here.

• Extras: Commentary, making-of featurettes, a fascinating feature-length documentary on the plot to kill Lincoln, production featurettes.
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August 16 Blu-ray Debuts:
  • 'The Big Lebowski Limited Edition' (1998) The Dude gets Blu this week with a nice hi-def transfer and a host of bonus features, including an all-new 28-page companion book featuring an exclusive interview with Jeff Dowd -- the real-life inspiration for The Dude; Jeff Bridges' personal, on-set photography; a film timeline; trivia and much more.
  • 'Cul-de-sac' (1966) Roman Polanski orchestrates a mental menage a trois in this slyly absurd tale of paranoia from the director's golden 1960s period. Donald Pleasance and Francoise Dorleac star as a withdrawn couple whose isolated house is infiltrated by a rude, burly American gangster on the run, played by Lionel Stander. The three engage in a game of shifting identities and sexual and emotional humiliations. It's a creepy picture of 20th century decadence and decay. From The Criterion Collection.
  • 'The Killing' (1956) Stanley Kubrick's account of an ambitious racetrack robbery is one of Hollywood's tautest, twistiest noirs. Aided by a radically time-shuffling narrative, razor-sharp dialogue from pulp novelist Jim Thompson, and a phenomenal cast of character actors, including Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Timothy Carey and Elisha Cook Jr., 'The Killing' is both a jaunty thriller and a cold-blooded punch to the gut. And with its precise tracking shots and gratifying sense of irony, it's Kubrick to the core. From The Criterion Collection.

Other New August 16 DVD Releases:
  • 'The Bang Bang Club': A drama based on the true-life experiences of four combat photographers capturing the final days of apartheid in South Africa. The men were bonded by friendship and their sense of purpose to tell the truth. And, while this intense political period brought out their best work -- two won Pulitzers -- it also exacted a heavy price. Stars Ryan Phillippe, Taylor Kitsch.
  • 'The Best and the Brightest': A fresh-faced young couple from Delaware who have recently moved to New York City go to extreme lengths to get their five-year-old daughter into the highly competitive kindergarten school system. Stars Neil Patrick Harris, Bonnie Somerville, Amy Sedaris, Peter Serafinowicz, Christopher McDonald, Kate Mulgrew.
  • 'Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil': More fractured fairy tales and pop culture comic riffs in this sequel to 'Hoodwinked,' which was based on 'Red Riding Hood.' This one finds heroine Red (Hayden Panettiere) training with a mysterious covert group called the Sisters of the Hood until she's called upon to rescue a pair of kidnapped kids. Voices of Hayden Panettiere, Glenn Close, Joan Cusack, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, Patrick Warburton, David Alan Grier, Andy Dick, Brad Garrett, Martin Short, Heidi Klum, Wayne Newton, Cheech Marin and Tommy Chong.
  • 'Meet Monica Velour': In this weak attempt at an irreverent comedy, awkward teenager Tobe (Dustin Ingram) sets off on a road trip to meet Monica Velour (Kim Cattrall), his favorite 80s porn star, at a rare live appearance hundreds of miles away. Instead of the glamorous sexpot portrayed on film, he finds a 49-year-old single mom living in a trailer in rural Indiana, performing at seedy strip clubs to make ends meet. The story line is too erratic, fluctuating between black comedy and white trash humor. Also Stars Brian Dennehy, Keith David.
  • 'Roadkill': What begins as a scenic road trip through Ireland soon turns deadly for a group of friends when an ancient curse takes wing by way of a bloodthirsty bird of prey. Stars Kacey Barnfield, Eliza Bennett, Stephen Rea.
  • 'Something Borrowed': Typical post-modern romantic comedy with unlikeable characters in worn out situations. A talented young female attorney who's unlucky at love has a one-night stand with her high school crush -- who also happens to be engaged to her best friend. Stars: Kate Hudson, Ginnifer Goodwin, John Krasinski, Colin Egglesfield, Steve Howey, Ashley Williams.

Check out more August 16 DVD releases at OnVideo.
The Conspirator
Based on 37 critics

A novice lawyer defends the only woman charged with conspiring to kill President Lincoln. Read More

Based on 13 critics

A warrior priest (Paul Bettany) sets out to save his niece from a pack of vampires. Read More

Jane Eyre
Based on 35 critics

A governess (Mia Wasikowska) learns that her employer (Michael Fassbender) has a terrible secret. Read More

categories Dvds, Movies, Blu-Ray Dvds