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A fascinating white-collar expose, “The Informant!” (Warner Brothers, 2009, $35.99), leads to the latest list of titles arriving on Blu-ray this week.

“The Informant!” stars Matt Damon as Mark Whiteacre, an ambitious young executive at Archer Daniels Midland, which is manufacturing a new food additive called lysine. Damon, who put on 30 pounds for the role, turns in a stellar performance as a guy whose brain seemingly functions in a different zone than those of most people.

Urged on by his wife, Ginger (Melanie Lynsky), Whiteacre decides to blow the whistle on his own company. FBI agent Brian Shepard (Scott Bakula) is stunned when Whiteacre tells him that ADM is involved in an international price-fixing scheme involving lysine. Envisioning himself a hero, Whiteacre agrees to be wired to help expose the crime.

There are some darkly funny moments during Whiteacre’s days as an undercover agent. As the FBI agents think they are about to close in on their prey, they are blindsided by a new revelation. It turns out that Whiteacre, while working for the FBI, has been doing a bit of embezzling on the side to the tune of $9 million.

The multi-layered film, set in 1992, can be viewed as a thriller, a comedy or a crime drama or all three at once. Highly recommended.

Other Blu-ray releases:

“The Universe: The Complete Season Four” (A&E, 2009, $54.95): Here is the latest three-disc set showcasing this stunningly beautiful series that can only be fully appreciated in high definition. Among the highlights: What Earth would look like if the moon suddenly disappeared. How a space war might be fought and as look at weapons of the future. Experts reveal 10 ways the Earth could be destroyed. There is also an episode devoted to trying to separate science-fiction from science-fact. Highly recommended.

“The Damned United” (Sony, 2009, $34.95): Michael Sheen plays Brian Clough, a successful soccer coach in England, who takes on the job of manager for Leeds United. A lot is expected of Clough because United is defending champion of English football. It turns out to be a nightmarish and sometimes humorous relationship.

“The Box” (Warner Brothers, 2009, $34.95): If someone gave you a box containing a button that, if pushed, would bring you a million dollars, you’d jump at the chance, right? Oh, there is one catch. Push that button and someone somewhere in the world will die. It is 1976 and that’s the choice Norma (Cameron Diaz) and Arthur Lewis (James Marsden) face after a man (Frank Langella) presents them with the mysterious box. The two have 24 hours to make up their minds.

“Nurse Jackie: Season One” (Lionsgate, 2009, $39.99): Edie Falco is Jackie Peyton who works in a New York City emergency room. While trying to meet the demands of a fast-paced job, Jackie also tries to cope with personal situations. She is not exactly the most scrupulous person to wear a nurse’s uniform. In one episode, she offers to trade sex for prescription drugs. This includes all 12 first season episodes that aired on Showtime.

“Neil Diamond: Hot August Night” (Sony, 2008, $24.98): This spotlights Diamond’s concert staged at Madison Square Garden in August 2008. The Blu-ray features 25 of his familiar songs from “Holly Holy” and “Sweet Caroline” to “Cracklin’ Rose” and “Song Sung Blue.”

“Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths” (Warner Brothers, 2010, $29.99): Superman, Batman and their caped comrades try to save the world as they take on evil mirror images of themselves. Mark Harmon, William Baldwin, James Woods, Chris Noth and Gina Torres lend their voices to the superheroes. Among the extras in the two-disc special is the first animated short featuring The Spectre, a DC hero from the 1940s.

“Cirque du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant” (Universal, 2009, $36.98): Sixteen-year-old Darren (Chris Massoglia) decides to join vampire Larten Crepsley (John C. Reilly), who is part of a traveling freak show. Darren’s aim is to become a vampire just like Larten.

“Wrong Side of Town” (Lionsgate, 2010, $29.99): After a crime boss puts out a $100,000 contract on him, Bobby Kalinowski (Rob Van Dam) calls in an old army buddy, Big Ronnie (David Bautista), to help him fight off the hoods who pursue him.

Warner Brothers Double Features: Each is priced at $24.98 and contains two Blu-ray titles. They include “Analyze This / Analyze That” with Billy Crystal and Robert De Niro; “Dirty Harry / Magnum Force” with Clint Eastwood; “Grumpy Old Men / Grumpier Old Men” with Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau; “Miss Congeniality / Miss Congeniality 2” with Sandra Bullock; and “Presumed Innocent / Frantic” with Harrison Ford.

Tagged as: blu-ray | dvd releases
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In one of the rarest rating periods ever, several on the staff could successfully argue for any of the Top 30 choices as a potential number one. While not all classics, they remain the consistent cream of 2009's crop.
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The Informant! recalls the excuses made by numerous underlings of authoritarian institutions over the course of the past century who have justified their exploitative practices by claiming they were just following orders.
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