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From the Minds of the Coen Brothers (Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Miller's Crossing, Fargo) (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

With the exception of Fargo, all of the Coen Brothers films in this collection are new to Blu-ray, and that makes this rather momentous. You can buy each Blu-ray separately, but even if you already have Fargo, buying the whole package is worth it, because the collection can be found cheaper than the four separate discs combined. Just give Fargo away as a present.

The most startling new Blu-ray is Miller's Crossing. I hadn't watched this one in almost a decade. That shot of Gabriel Byrne's hat blowing off into the woods is a classic Coens' moment, and this still stands as one of their more beautifully shot films. Boy, I forgot how many beatings Byrne takes in this movie. During this viewing, it was Jon Polito's repressed crime-lord performance that got to me the most. I love how he tries to remain calm, but then explodes and shows why crime might've been the right career path for him.

The film's best scene remains the infamous walk into the woods, in which Tom Reagan (Byrne) is set to waste Bernie (John Turturro). While this isn't Turturro's best overall work with the Coens (that would be in Barton Fink), this moment may be his best single scene with the Coens.

Blood Simple remains a masterwork and one of the best screen debuts for a director in cinema history. While I marvel at the amount of beatings Byrne endured in Miller's Crossing, Dan Hedaya's character gets it even worse in Simple.

Raising Arizona is one of the funniest movies ever made, featuring vintage Nicolas Cage, John Goodman and Holly Hunter. And let us not forget the late Trey Wilson as Nathan Arizona, purveyor of fine unpainted furniture.

All of the films look and sound spectacular in the format. I know it's a little early, but keep this in mind as a potential holiday gift for cinema-lovers.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Raising Arizona has no special features. Miller's Crossing has some cast interviews and a conversation with cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld. Blood Simple has a commentary with some dude named Kenneth Loring, and Fargo (reviewed here previously) has a commentary with Roger Deakins.

Meek's Cutoff (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

Don't expect a conventional piece of entertainment that wraps everything up in a tidy little bow. Director Kelly Reichardt's film about a group of American settlers in 1845 getting lost in Oregon and having to deal with a mysterious Native American is a true winner, but it's a slow, deliberately paced movie that's bound to make some restless.

The cast is one of this year's best, with Michelle Williams, Paul Dano, Will Patton and Bruce Greenwood all delivering incredible work. Greenwood is especially good as the guide who misleads the settlers, and who has a deep hatred for the Indian they capture. Dano continues to make a name for himself as one of Hollywood's more interesting young actors, while Williams has become one of the best actresses working today.

As for The Indian, he is played by Rod Rondeaux in an alternately heartbreaking and scary performance. The film doesn't let you know the Indian's intentions, and Rondeaux does an excellent job of keeping the viewer off- balance.

SPECIAL FEATURES: You get a making-of and an essay ... not much.

Hanna (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

With only a few months to go in 2011, Saoirse Ronan is my pick for Super Badass Action Star of the Year. As the title character, she brings intelligence and athleticism to a demanding role.

Raised by her dad (ever-reliable Eric Bana) in a snowy wasteland, Hanna has been trained for a specific purpose throughout her entire life. When a series of events make her fly into action, God help those who are on her shit list. On the top of that list would be Cate Blanchett, who plays bad here much better than she did in the last Indiana Jones movie.

The movie, directed by Joe Wright, follows Hanna around the world on her fairy-tale-like odyssey, and boasts some of the year's best cinematography. The Chemical Brothers have crafted one of the year's best soundtracks, and need to be remembered come Oscar time.

Ronan has proven that she's one of the best actresses in her age group, and this film does much to solidify that notion. The movie is as good as it is because Ronan is believable as a naïve yet deadly killing machine. Hanna is definitely a unique experience.

SPECIAL FEATURES: There are some decent behind-the-scenes looks, including some footage of Ronan training for the role, and a quick segment on The Chemical Brothers. There's an alternate ending that is quite inferior to the one used in the film, as well as deleted scenes. Wright provides a commentary.

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