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10 DVDs to Help You Survive Summer Blockbuster Hell (trailers)

Robert W. Butler / McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

By now you've probably yawned through Bride Wars and Paul Blart and wondered if there's hope for your DVD player. It's time to look beyond the blockbusters to find cool movies for hot summer nights. Yes, some of these recommendations are heavy dramas; some even have subtitles. So expand your horizons already.


Who's in it: Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, James Franco

Why rent it: Oscar-winner Penn gives one of his greatest performances as the late gay rights leader Harvey Milk. The story tackles a big panorama and finds personal stories that touch, inform and inspire.



Who's in it: It's animated, with voices of Israeli war vets who were stationed in Lebanon.

Why rent it: This documentary about the horrors of war is dark and scary and deeply disturbing. But so good it earned a 4-star review.



Who's in it: Philippe Petit, who walked on a cable strung between the Twin Towers high above NYC

Why rent it: If this Oscar-winning documentary were fiction it would be hailed as a terrific suspense film and fascinating character study. But it's true, which makes it all the more remarkable.



Who's in it: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen

Why rent it: The Oscar-nominated film is a thoughtful and provocative based-on-facts drama in which the president emerges not so much a villain as a tragic figure in search of redemption. And it's funny, too.



Who's in it: Dominique Pinon, Audrey Dana

Why rent it: In an age of predictable and no-thrills thrillers, this French film comes on like gangbusters — a super smart, spectacularly plotted mystery overflowing with rich characters and oodles of ambiguity.



Who's in it: Francois Cluzet, Marie-Josee Croze, Kristin Scott Thomas

Why rent it: A French thriller that teases the intellect, shocks the senses and is sometimes simply too suspenseful for comfort.



Who's in it: Richard Jenkins, Danai Gurira, Haaz Sleiman, Hiam Abbass

Why rent it: As a reclusive professor who comes out of his shell to help illegal immigrants, Jenkins delivers a rich performance, packed with insight, humor and feeling. And Abbass ("Lemon Tree") is luminous.



Who's in it: Oscar nominees Marisa Tomei and Mickey Rourke, plus Evan Rachel Wood

Why rent it: As a has-been pro wrestler, Rourke is utterly convincing on both the physical and emotional levels, and the result may be the most fully formed characterization seen in any movie that opened in 2008.



Who's in it: Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams, Viola Davis

Why rent it: Sister Streep accuses Hoffman the priest of impropriety. This is the sort of hand-to-hand acting we see only at Oscar time. And all the stars were nominated.



Who's in it: Penelope Cruz (she won an Oscar), Javier Bardem, Scarlett Johansson

Why rent it: This comedy about American tourists in Spain is sexy, thoughtful, fiery and amusing. It's the best thing Woody Allen has done in a decade.

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