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New on DVD

Assassins, revolutionary hairstylists and cult directors hit DVD shelves this week

New on DVD this week:

- Hanna

Its a coming-of-age story, a sci-fi thriller and a suspense film all crammed into one high-energy package: its Hanna, from director Joe Wright (Atonement) and local writer Seth Lochhead. Saoirse Ronan is the lynch-pin to making the whole thing work: she plays the title character, raised in isolation in the Finnish tundra by her father (Eric Bana) who has been training her to be an assassin since birth. Why? Pieces of the puzzle start flying into view the moment Hanna presses a long-buried button, which will alert the CIA to her whereabouts and put her lifes training into practice.

Theres scarcely a moment to catch your breath after that, as Hanna is pursued by a masochistic CIA agent (Cate Blanchett) and her henchman (Tom Hollander, playing a disconcerting mix of fey and evil) across Finland, Morocco, Germany and several points in between. The story is a compelling mix of action (aided by The Chemical Brothers creative score) and personal journey of a girl discovering herself for the first time.

There are a multitude of features on the blu-ray bonus disc. Adapt or Die is a thorough making-of extra with Wright, Ronan and Bana, all chatting about how the film hinged on Ronans fighting ability and believability in the role: You had to believe her or the whole film would be a non-starter, says Wright. Central Intelligence Allegory delves into the fairy-tale archetypes in the film, with writer Seth Lochhead, producer and actors. Wright breaks it all down for uswhats CG, whats location, etc,in Anatomy of a Scene. Theres a bit on the Chemical Brothers large contribution to the mood of the film, plus the road movie aspect of the film in The Wide World of Hanna. Director commentary, alternate ending, deleted scenes, and a promo round out the features.

- Vidal Sassoon

Its not just another shampoo brand sitting on the shelf: Vidal Sassoon and his revolutionary haircuts are as synonymous with 1960s revolution as Mary Quant and her miniskirts. Its like being a physicist and working alongside Einstein, said one contemporary of the man who coined the phrase. If you dont look good, we dont look good. The asymmetrical five-point and severely bobbed haircuts liberated women from those teased and sprayed-stiff coifs they had been sporting all through the 50s. Sassoon was known to dance around the chair, looking at each individual head of hair and deciding which architecture-inspired lines would suit the woman best. You didnt tell Vidal what you wanted: he decided for you. And if you dared touch your hair during the process, who were liable to get a wrap on the knuckles with his scissors.

But Sassoons pre-hair history is as fascinating as his impact on Londons culture. He was put in a Jewish orphanage from age five to 11 by his impoverished mother. He fought Sir Oswold Mosley, the man who founded the British Union of Fascists and had Adolf Hitler at his wedding, at public demonstrations and found himself in the newly created state of Israel, where he spent a year. He was an apprentice to an East End wig-maker and a shampoo boy at 14, but was told hed never make a name for himself until he could speak English. It took him three years of elocution lessons to lose the Cockney accent.

Featuring interviews with stylists, industry luminaries, former employees, and Sassoon himself, Craig Teper weaves together a thoroughly entertaining look at the man whose wash and wear philosophy changed hair forever.

- Road to Nowhere

Road to Nowhere represents the return of director Monte Hellman after a 20-plus year hiatus from feature films (1988s Iguana was his last, unless you count the straight-to-DVD Silent Night, Deadly Night 3). Two Lane Blacktop (1971) about two guys who drag race across the country (the driver is James Taylor!) firmly established Hellmans cult following, as did his relationship with Roger Corman.

Hellman fans are in for a treat with Road to Nowhere, provided they dont try too hard to dissect the truth in the plot. Described as a movie within a movie within a movie by an actor in the special features, the film opens with director Mitch Haven (Tygh Runyan) showing a cut of the film to a crime blogger (Dominique Swain). Then, were immersed in the movie, or at least, the movie-making process. Scarlett Johanssen wants the role, but Mitch offers the lead to an unknown named Laurel (Shannyn Sossamon) who looks uncannily like the real Velma Duran, who may or may not have been part of a murder-suicide and made off with $100 million.

Action flip-flops between the inevitable writer/actor friction, heightened by Mitchs obsession with his leading lady, to the investigative reporting of the real story and Variety interviews. Shots linger uncomfortably long, though theres a creepy beauty to the proceedings. The ending feels rushed given the rest of the films languid pace, but maybe that was just my frustration talking. Maybe the characters say it best: If it all made sense I wouldnt be interested, says Mitch. While in the films making-of feature actor John Diehl admits: I dont know what the fk the films about to tell you the truth, but it was fun.

Special features include an exhaustive making-of featurette with interviews from local North Carolina residents (there really is a road to nowhere: look it up), songstress Bonnie Pointer, homeowners displaced by the crew, writers, producers and actors. Theres also a trailer, and a raw Q&A at the Nashville Film Festival.