A trippy trek with a Beatles backbeat

'Across the Universe'

Sony, $28.96; Blu-Ray, $38.96

Critics either hummed along with or bashed Julie Taymor's ambitious musical "Across the Universe," which takes a whirlwind excursion through the 1960s via the Beatles' songbook. Evan Rachel Wood and Jim Sturgess are star-crossed lovers Lucy and Jude, singing and dancing their way across the American culture wars. The double-disk offering includes eight extended musical performances, a deleted scene ("And I Love Her"), five featurettes, plus a commentary track with Taymor and music producer/composer Elliot Goldenthal discussing the challenge of keeping a sweeping, music-driven narrative on the rails.

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'Descent'

City Lights, $26.98; $39.99

Rosario Dawson stars as a revenge-minded college student in "Descent," from director Talia Lugacy. Critics praised Dawson's raw performance, but a disturbingly graphic rape scene generated more buzz than the film itself. The film is available in both the NC-17 theatrical release and an R-rated cut and comes with deleted scenes, interviews and a commentary track with Dawson and Lugacy.

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'Elizabeth: The Golden Age'

Universal, $29.98, HD, $39.98

Cate Blanchett scored another Oscar nomination reprising her role as the Virgin Queen from the 1998 historical drama "Elizabeth," a breakout performance that yielded an Academy Award nomination the first time around. Director Shekhar Kapur also returns for the sequel, "Elizabeth: The Golden Age," but the result is decidedly more melodramatic and spectacle-laden. The extras include four mini-docs on the making of the film, all under 15 minutes (with one incongruously sponsored by Volkswagen), and a commentary track by Kapur.

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'Feast of Love'

MGM, $29.98

Morgan Freeman and Greg Kinnear head the cast of director Robert Benton's "Feast of Love," a sentimental exploration of the ways of the heart set in a small Oregon town. Allison Burnett adapted Charles Baxter's novel of lovelorn wayfarers. The lone extra is a short batch of interviews with the cast, which also includes Radha Mitchell, Selma Blair, Jane Alexander and Fred Ward.

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'Jane Austen Book Club'

Sony, $26.96; Blue-Ray, $38.96

Screenwriter Robin Swicord made her feature directorial debut with "Jane Austen Book Club," a witty and sexy adaptation of the Karen Joy Fowler novel about a contemporary reading group that discovers romance, wisdom and relevance in the 19th century British author's novels. Kathy Baker, Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Amy Brenneman, Maggie Grace and Hugh Dancy star as the intrepid book lovers. Seven deleted scenes, a handful of featurettes and a teeming commentary track featuring Swicord, Dancy, Grace, editor Maryanne Brandon and producer Julie Lynn are included.

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'Midnight Express'

Sony, $19.94

Featuring a penetrating, Oscar-winning Giorgio Moroder synthesizer score that takes decades to get out of your system, the 1978 Alan Parker-directed drama about a young American man's hellish stint in a Turkish prison could have been written by the devil himself, but it was penned by Oliver Stone, who picked up his first Academy Award for the job. Brad Davis, John Hurt and Randy Quaid give bold, edgy performances that more than hold up even if the film itself feels dated. This 30th-anniversary edition includes three featurettes, Parker's commentary and a booklet with excerpts from the director's journals.

-- Kevin Crust

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