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This Week On DVD: 'Secretariat' Hits All The Right Comfortable Notes

Secretariat, which hits DVD and Blu-ray this week, is a movie that feels like it could have been made any time between the era in which its set (the early 1970s) and now. Directed by Randall Wallace, who wrote the screenplays to both Braveheart and Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor, it has a gauzy, generic good-heartedness that isn't going to set the world on fire but is probably a great relief to people who have dystopia fatigue.

Anchored by good performances from Diane Lane as owner Penny Chenery Tweedy, John Malkovich as trainer Lucien Laurin, and the marvelous character actress Margo Martindale as Penny's right-hand woman, Secretariat is your basic feel-good Disney movie that's genuinely pleasant and appropriate for families. While "pleasant" might seem like a lukewarm word, there's nothing wrong (or new) in crawling under a blanket and watching a movie about a lovable horse. There is a sort of dreamy predictability about everything in this film: the deep-down warmth of Laurin, the steely toughness but unending poise of Penny, and — well, you know how it goes for the horse.

Still, it's exactlythe kind of film that makes a good rental, because you might not drag yourself out to a theater and spend fifty bucks to take your kids, but it's lovely to look at —the racing scenes are stunning — and it's solidly executed if not exactly innovative.

The special features on the DVD are fairly limited: three deleted scenes, a "Heart Of A Champion" featurette, and a music video. They're more extensive on the Blu-ray disc: they include an audio commentary with Wallace, a discussion between Wallace and the real Penny Chenery, extra deleted scenes, and a "Choreographing The Races" feature.

Other releases this week include (but are not limited to):

  • A Criterion Collection release of Broadcast News
  • Dogtooth, which was just nominated for an Oscar in the Best Foreign Language Film category
  • North And South, a new release of the old Patrick Swayze Civil War miniseries
  • Red, with Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, and other allegedly aging action heroes; and
  • White Wedding, a road movie Bob Mondello praised highly last year.
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    Linda Holmes is a pop culture correspondent for NPR and the host of Pop Culture Happy Hour. She began her professional life as an attorney. In time, however, her affection for writing, popular culture, and the online universe eclipsed her legal ambitions. She shoved her law degree in the back of the closet, gave its living room space to DVD sets of The Wire, and never looked back.