2007_04_arts_scandaldvd.jpgNotes on a Scandal (directed by Richard Eyre): There are certain actresses who can really do no wrong and surely Judi Dench as well as Cate Blanchett are on that list. If you missed their Oscar-nominated pairing from last winter, Notes on a Scandal, you've got another chance to see these two fine thespians in full command of their powers as the movie comes out on DVD this week. Based on Zoë Heller's best selling novel, Dench plays Barbara, an uptight, lonely London teacher who discovers a fascinating object of affection in the school's new art instructor, Sheba Hart. As the two become friends, Barbara records all of her most intimate fantasies about and observations of Sheba in her journals. Barbara's so obsessed that when she discovers that Sheba has been carrying on an affair with one of the teenage boys at the school, she even promises to keep the relationship a secret in the hopes of getting even more entangled in Sheba's life. Of course the story gets much more messy and scandalous from here on, but watching Dench and Blanchett explore these morally suspect and often unlikable characters transcends their tabloid headline plot. Particularly Dench's performance, with its conniving and petty reactions to Blanchett's character, is simultaneously squirm-inducing and mesmerizing. She makes a seriously icky character utterly unforgettable. Notes on a Scandal is an Oscar season darling that's well worth adding to the rental queue.

Other new discs hitting shelves this week include a Criterion release of Mathieu Kassovitz's exploration of racially charged Paris, La Haine, Forest Whitaker's Oscar-winning performance psychopathic dictator Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland and the film version of the West End smash, The History Boys. Or you can wallow in some TV sitcom nostalgia with episodes of such classic shows as Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and Mork & Mindy all coming out on DVD.