'The' skinny on this week's DVDs

This just might be "the" week in DVD releases. "The" as in The Caller, The Spirit and The Reader, all released Tuesday.

Of the three, The Reader ($29.95, $34.99 on Blu-ray) gets my vote. It's hard to make a Nazi sympathetic — and a pedophile Nazi, well ... don't try that at home — but it can be done. The Reader (specifically screenwriter David Hare, using the book by Bernhard Schlink, and actress Kate Winslet) pulls it off.

In post-World War II Germany, a decade after his affair with an older woman, a law student encounters her again — defending herself in a war-crimes trial. The relationship between that woman and the boy — barely a teenager — seems almost natural and we come to see how she could love him. Not just for his body — although she did enjoy that — but for his mind (his reading to her serves as foreplay).

The trap, of course, is that who she is with him and what she did as a prison-camp guard are nearly impossible to reconcile. To call Winslet's performance naked and open is literally and figuratively true, and it won her an Academy Award. The Reader is rated R for scenes of sexuality and nudity.

The Spirit ($29.95, $34.98 for a special edition that includes a digital copy that can be downloaded to a computer or portable media player, $39.99 on Blu-ray) is based on the comic strip about a masked avenger who is not Batman, watching over a city that is not Gotham, but trying just as hard to keep the meanies at bay. Samuel L. Jackson plays the Octopus, the arch-enemy of Central City's guardian Spirit (Gabriel Macht). The Spirit is rated PG-13 for sequences of stylized violence and some sexual content and brief nudity.

The Caller ($24.95) stars Frank Langella as a business executive who turns whistleblower on his company and then fakes his own death, takes an assumed name and runs for his life. It's rated PG-13.