This mid-April week, two new DVD releases are dividing our attention, and they couldn't be more different. "The Reader," a German WWII-era drama about an illiterate Nazi guard and her unwitting teenage lover, and "The Spirit," the tale of a good cop who was murdered and came back from the grave to fight crime as a ghostly superhero.
Each one brings a lot of literary gusto to the table: "The Reader," at its core a book about a woman's passion for reading, was a New York Times bestseller and Oprah book club selection; "The Spirit" started as a comic strip from master of the genre Will Eisner (plus, the film was directed by Frank Miller, the same man who wrote "Sin City" a few years back) but that's where any semblance of similarity stops.
Awards-wise, "The Reader" packs pedigreed heft, earning a best actress Oscar for Kate Winslet in the lead role, so if you're out to impress your cinephile friends, this is the one that should top your Netflix list. But this is no feel-good redemptive romance though (there is nooky and naked bathing aplenty). Winslet plays a Nazi who goes to trial for her role in allowing a churchful of Jewish woman to burn to death, and though her former lover knows critical information that just might be able to get her off the hook, he can't bring himself to let the woman he loved go unpunished, and so he lets her lie to keep her inability to read a secret—in short, this is tortured, troubled love, not the kind that leaves you dreaming of Patrick Dempsey.
But it just might leave you longing for the no-holds-barred catharsis of "The Spirit," where the good guys are real good and bad guys are all bad and ultimately pay for it in the end.
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