CAPTION: Can you imagine anyone else other than Morgan Freeman playing South African leader Nelson Mandela? Here he does so in the film “Invictus.”

Invictus (Warner, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 133 min.). If you imagined the first major movie to be made about Nelson Mandela would involve rugby, well then you had the vision of director Clint Eastwood, who made the movie “Invictus.” Morgan Freeman, who seems a natural to play the South African leader and is a producer on this project, has been associated with movies about Mandela for about 10 years, but none of the projects came to fruition until this one.

Eastwood, one of the last masters of the old-school Hollywood system, is anything but old school as he proves again in this most unlikely, but often terrific film. As the film opens, the Afrikaner, all-white but for one man, Springbok rugby team is practicing. Beyond their fenced-in practice area are black children playing their own brand on rugby. Then, in between, comes a motorcade: it is Feb. 11, 1990 and Mandela is being released from prison on Robben Island after 24 years (he was imprisoned for 27 years total, having been convicted of sabotage for leading Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress, against apartheid).

Four years later, Mandela is the first South African president elected by a fully representative democratic election, and he is determined to united the people of the nation, black and white. When he hires four white presidential bodyguards, he tells his objecting black bodyguard, “The rainbow starts here; reconciliation starts here.” A bit later, Mandela attends a Springbok rugby match against England, and realizes all the blacks are rooting for England. When the National Sports Council decides to change the name and colors of the Springbok team, Mandela steps in, saying it is “no time for petty revenge,” but rather a time to rebuild the country. Privately, to his secretary, he points out his pragmatic reasons: the whites still control the police and the wealth, and he does not want to perpetuate the “cycle of fear” between the whites and the blacks by taking away their rugby team.

With South Africa due to host the 1995 World Cup in rugby, Mandela approaches the Springbok captain (Matt Damon in a supporting role as Francois Pienaar) and tells him he supports the team and wants it to do its best to win. He later orders the team to conduct clinics for black children throughout the country. The film’s title refers to a poem by William Ernest Henley that inspired Mandela while he was in prison.

Freeman is superb and very deserving of his Oscar nomination. Damon also was nominated, but his performance is more serviceable than compelling. Politically, the film only focuses on one accomplishment of Mandela’s career, the important one of creating unity in his country after his election. As a sports film, Eastwood manages to generate some excitement in a game that remains a mystery to most Americans. The first half of the film is amazing; the almost all-rugby ending was necessary, but is less compelling (we never come to root for the players as individuals).

The Blu-ray sound is excellent; you’ll hear the crowd on the real speakers. Extras include picture-in-picture, behind-the-scenes looks with Eastwood and others; a 28-minute making-of feature that includes Freeman meeting Mandela; a 6:49 look at turning Damon into a rugby player; and a repeat of the excerpt from “The Eastwood Factor” documentary (the full-length version will be released by itself June 1). Grade: film 3.25 stars; extras 3 stars

Valentine’s Day (New Line, Blu-ray or standard DVD, PG-13, 125 min.). For this bit of fluff, director Garry Marshall has gathered about two dozen stars, matched them up and stirred with very little plot. What plot there is has flower shop owner Reed (Ashton Kutcher) propose to his girlfriend (Jessica Alba) to have her accept in the morning and then move out in the afternoon. George Lopez plays his employee, who has among several who figured that would happen, but never bothered to tell Reed. Meanwhile, Reed’s best friend (Jennifer Garner) is dating a doctor (Patrick Dempsey), who she doesn’t know is married. Topher Grace’s character (nice shirtless moment) is dating a woman, who, unbeknownst to him, works for a sex hotline.

And so on. Jamie Foxx plays a number-two TV sports reporter ordered by his boss (Kathy Bates) to get some Valentine’s Day fluff pieces, and Shirley MacLaine (who gets to act in one scene against the backdrop of one of her own old movies) and Hector Elizondo play a married couple with a lovesick grandchild (his crush, his teacher, is played by Garner). The funniest line in the whole film is when Taylor Lautner (“Twilight: New Moon”) tells his girlfriend that he feels uncomfortable taking his shirt off in public to put on the T-shirt she gave him. Also in the film are Eric Dane, Anne Hathaway, Queen Latifah, Emma Roberts, Taylor Swift, Julia Roberts, Bradley Cooper and Jessica Biel.

DVD extras include audio commentary by Marshall; the stars telling their Valentine’s Day stories; a look at the director; a blooper reel; a Jewel music video; and a sneak peek trailer for “Sex and the City 2.” Grade: film 2 stars; extras 2.25 stars

Rating guide: 5 stars = classic; 4 stars = excellent; 3 stars = good; 2 stars = fair; dog = skip it

Additional reviews are available online at and include Woody Harrelson’s Oscar-nominated performance in “The Messenger” and Jackie Chan in “The Spy Next Door.”