Sweat Along With Russell

 Cinderella Man (Universal)

Back in the Great Depression, boxing matches only cost a nickel, and the ring was uphill both ways. That's the central message of this well-made if sappy bio of 1930s boxer Jim Braddock. Ron Howard's direction and a stellar cast save the film from its one-dimensional characters and retread plot; Russell Crowe is mesmerizing, despite a script that never allows him a rude joke, fart, or anything else that might tarnish Braddock's nomination for sainthood. The second side of the disc is more fun than the film itself: There's actual footage of Braddock's title fight against Max Baer, with commentary by famed boxing enthusiast Norman Mailer, whose words will help you see boxing for the sweet science it is. Documentaries on Braddock, the film, and the fight trainers add up to the rare extras package that's worth the price of admission. -- Jordan Harper

Russell Crowe as Jim Braddock, fighter and family 
man.
Russell Crowe as Jim Braddock, fighter and family man.

Fantastic Four (Fox)

Neither as bad as critics claimed nor as good as it could have been, this adaptation of the classic Marvel comic delivers the appropriate special effects, which are exalted here on featurettes that mostly already aired on cable. The movie's major misstep is in its botched portrayal of Dr. Doom; what has long been Marvel's major megalomaniac is rendered by Julian McMahon as a vaguely effeminate corporate CEO. Among the Four, Michael Chiklis makes a perfect Ben Grimm, and Jessica Alba is so hot that you might not notice her performance. Alba, Chiklis, and Ioan Gruffudd (as Reed Richards) participate in a lively commentary track that hints at sequel details, and an amusing deleted scene features a digital cameo by another major Marvel movie star. -- Luke Y. Thompson

The Dukes of Hazzard (Warner Bros.)

A film made up of inspired stunt-casting (Willie Nelson, Burt Reynolds, Johnny Knoxville) and uninspired everything else, The Dukes flies in and out of your consciousness at the speed of the General Lee. It's slick enough to make a fine Friday-night rental, but beware any post-pubescent who wants to own it. This "unrated" edition (which would easily qualify for an "R," if they'd bothered to rate it) adds a few casual boobs and dirty jokes to the theatrical cut. Fourteen-year-olds, rejoice. Along with the music video for Simpson's cover of "These Boots Were Made for Walking," the extras are mostly quick and easy featurettes on the car chases, explosions, and Simpson's Daisy Dukes. "It's a matter of centimeters," one of the costume designers enlightens us. But the 14-year-olds already know that. -- Harper

Batman, the Animated Series: Volume Four (Warner Bros.)

This is no kids' stuff, despite the fact it aired Saturday mornings on the WB in the late '90s. That's especially true in what turned out to be the best episode of the entire series: "Legends of the Dark Knight," which pays homage to the work of legendary Batman artist Dick Sprang and the revolutionary Frank Miller, whose dark Dark Knight shows up in one particularly disturbing vignette. (Batman roars to one mutant baddie: "I'm the surgeon, and this is the operating table," before you hear the slight cracking of broken bones.) That episode alone makes this a keeper. But the boxed set is notable too for its clever writing and sharp, angular animation -- and, of course, the addition of Batgirl, Nightwing, the Tim Drake Robin, and even Supergirl. -- Robert Wilonsky

Sweat Along With Russell

 
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