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O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

click to enlarge O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Blu-ray)
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? (Blu-ray)

The cavalcade of Coen Brothers films coming to Blu-ray continues with this, one of their best-looking and best-sounding efforts. This is the film that cemented George Clooney's status as a major star with staying power.

The Coens did a sly take on Homer's The Odyssey, setting the film in the Deep South during the Depression, filling it with great folk music, and doing some funny variations on Homer's characters (especially John Goodman's Cyclops!).

I still love the way Clooney's prison escapee sells the lip-synch when he and his partners (Tim Blake Nelson and John Turturro) do a primitive recording of "I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow." The camerawork by Roger Deakins is beyond gorgeous. This may be one of the most beautifully shot films ever made.

All right ... let's get some Barton Fink Blu-ray action now. Bring on Barton Fink!

SPECIAL FEATURES: As is usually the case with Coen discs, the special features are relatively sparse. You get a short making-of doc, a music video and some storyboard comparisons.

Modern Family: The Complete Second Season





(OUT OF 10)

click to enlarge Modern Family: The Complete Second Season
  • Modern Family: The Complete Second Season

This one just picked up its second Emmy in a row for Outstanding Comedy Series, and also nabbed Best Supporting Actor and Actress statues for TV-couple Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen. It's nice to see these two get some recognition for their consistently hilarious work.

Big props also go out to Ed O'Neill as the crazy family's patriarch, Eric Stonestreet and Jesse Tyler Ferguson as TV's funniest gay couple, and Sofia Vergara as the patriarch's smokin' hot and seriously funny wife. All received Emmy nominations this year.

Plots include a nostalgic trip in an old family station wagon, a mother-daughter sick day and an earthquake ... all of which are funny.

The third season just commenced on ABC. If you haven't started watching it yet, I heartily suggest you do. It's the best TV comedy about a kooky family since Arrested Development.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Deleted scenes, interviews and a full episode of the cast doing a table read in front of a live audience are the best features.

The Tempest (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

click to enlarge The Tempest (Blu-ray)
  • The Tempest (Blu-ray)

Director Julie Taymor gives Shakespeare another go with this highly stylized riff on the Bard's "final masterpiece."

I've always thought The Tempest was one of Shakespeare's shittier works, so I was quite surprised when I found Taymor's take on the story to be almost enjoyable. She can't get beyond the total mess of a story, but she employs some interesting changes and good actors to make this one fun in spots.

Helen Mirren makes a decent Prospera. (It's changed from Prospero ... I guess the "A" makes the name a little more feminine?) Mirren can make anything sound interesting, even if it is the sound of Shakespeare spinning his wheels. I also liked Russell Brand's goofy turn as Trinculo, and Djimon Hounsou as Caliban. I was not too crazy about Felicity Jones as Miranda or Reave Carney as Prince Ferdinand. They are a bit dull as the main romantic couple.

The film got a much-deserved Oscar nomination for costume design; they really are quite delightful!

While the film does spark on occasion, and is certainly a unique take on Shakespeare, it doesn't compare to Taymor's awesome Titus, featuring my all-time-favorite Anthony Hopkins performance. Taymor took that play and made it her own, something she ultimately fails to do this time out.

This was a colossal box-office failure, making something shy of $350,000 after a budget of $20 million. I'm thinking studios are a little afraid of Taymor at the moment, especially after she flamed out as the director of the recent Spider-Man musical on Broadway. She's a talented visual artist, and I generally like her movies, so I hope she finds herself in favor again someday soon.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Cool rehearsal footage, a documentary about the making of the movie, a Taymor commentary and a commentary with Shakespeare experts to help you figure out what in the hell is going on in this thing.

Dumbo: 70th Anniversary (Blu-ray + DVD)





(OUT OF 10)

click to enlarge Dumbo: 70th Anniversary (Blu-ray + DVD)
  • Dumbo: 70th Anniversary (Blu-ray + DVD)

This one is 70 years old ... wow. I still remember seeing it as a kid in the '70s. It was one of last "kid" movies I saw before my dad started letting me see stuff like Jaws and Rocky.

The story of the ostracized flying elephant is as charming as ever—and it inspired a sweet Disneyland ride.

SPECIAL FEATURES: They include a never-before-released deleted scene and song, along with loads of making-of featurettes. This is a keeper.

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  • No Laughing Matter

    Joker deserves the hook
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    A visit from the King and Queen is great for Downton Abbey fans, but it’s just royal mess for the rest of us
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