HomeVideodrome: Coen Brothers, Christmas Nightmare, Madea, More...

This week we're getting four Coen brothers classics on Blu-ray in a handy box set, as well as released individually: Blood Simple, Raising Arizona, Fargo, and Miller's Crossing (though Fargo has already been made available).


The Coens specialize in bizarre crime movies, and each of these movies has its own, unique feel and tone. Their first film, Blood Simple, is a a humorless, Texas-fried noir with an atmosphere that would inform their later adaptation of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men. Even the opening of the Coens Oscar-winning comeback recalls their debut, where one of the characters monologues in a morose tone over various shots of the desolate Texas landscape. The story would serve as the skeleton for many of their future films, a crime that is thrown into bloody chaos by a villainous loose cannon. Said rogue is played in this film with cool menace by M. Emmett Walsh, a sleazy private dick hired by a jealous husband to murder his cheating wife and her lover, not realizing the detective has plans of his own.

Blood Simple was a quiet, somber affair, especially compared to the hilarious antics of their kidnapping caper Raising Arizona, which features Nicolas Cage doing over-the-edge crazy the best way he knows how. The camerawork is reminiscent of their pal Sam Raimi's debut feature, Evil Dead, in which the camera zooms along in a terrifying yet comedic manner (fun fact: Joel Coen was an editing assistant on Evil Dead). Many consider this to be one of their best movies, and I certainly think its up there, as it is relentlessly entertaining and as colorful as movies get in terms of action and character.



Miller's Crossing has little in common with its two predecessors, aside from the basic element of crime. It's an Irish gangster story in keeping the tone of the Dashiell Hammet novels that served as the inspiration for movies like Yojimbo and A Fistful of Dollars in the manner in which it features a character who plays two groups against each other so in the end, he comes out on top. The plot to Miller's Crossing is a bit like The Big Lebowski in that it doesn't seem to make a whole lot of sense upon first viewing, however it grows more rich with each viewing, making it a fun one to revisit.

Fargo is similar to Blood Simple in that it has the factor of a perfect crime gone sour, however the quirky golly-gosh Minnesota setting and the fantastic Oscar-winning performance by Francis McDormand gives it a lighter tone than their debut, despite it being one of their most violent yarns. Steve Buscemi and Peter Stormare give stand-out performances as a couple of violent thugs hired by a scheming husband (a perfectly wormy William H. Macy) to kidnap his wife so her father will put up the ransom money. Of course, the goons can't be trusted, and pretty soon the bodies start piling up and everything goes to Hell against the snowbound small-town middle-America setting.

If you already own the DVDs of these movies and are considering an upgrade, know that there isn't anything new on these discs in terms of extras. It has the exact same features that were included in previous editions, so if you want to trade-up, it better be for the HD transfer. I have the DVDs already, and given there's no new commentaries or other features causing me to turn my head, I think I'm good with what I got. If you don't own these movies, though, now is a perfect time to pick them up.

Available on Blu-ray

Other Noteworthy Releases

Nightmare Before Christmas 3D: I love Nightmare Before Christmas, but never in the many times that I've seen it did I ever once think, "Hmm, you know what would make this better? 3D!" This Blu-ray set includes the original 2D version as well on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital (as Disney is wont to do lately), so I guess it's nice that they include the option.

Available on 3D Blu-ray

Prom: Disney's teen flick didn't perform the way they had hoped at the box office, but I doubt it's because it wasn't the crass high school flick some critics hoped for. Perhaps it will find its audience on home video.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Madea's Big Happy Family: I've never seen a Tyler Perry movie, but I can't help but respect the way in which he's built an empire from nothing outside of the Hollywood system. If you dig his stuff, here you go.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

The Complete Jean Vigo: Criterion is putting out this box set featuring the entire body of work by director Jean Vigo, who had a brief career cut short at the age of twenty-nine by tuberculosis. The box set includes À propos de Nice, Taris, Zéro de conduite, and L’Atalante.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Orpheus: Jean Cocteau's modern adaptation of the old myth comes to Criterion. The disc features a bounty of extras, including a feature-length documentary on Cocteau and a 16mm Cocteau short.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

If....: Lindsay Anderson's bizarre movie starring Malcolm McDowell gets a Criterion update on Blu-ray. This is the movie that inspired Stanley Kubrick to cast McDowell in the role of Alex in A Clockwork Orange.

Available on Blu-ray

Strike: Innovative Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein's debut feature detailing a worker's strike may be commie propaganda, but it features some of the incredible editing techniques he would come to perfect in his classic Battleship Potemkin.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Rio 3D: In case watching this movie in 2D at home wasn't good enough for you.

Available on 3D Blu-ray

Good Will Hunting: The movie that made Matt Damon an expert on education comes to Blu-ray

Available on Blu-ray

Top Gun: I have a friend who lumps movies into two categories: pre-Top Gun and post-Top Gun. I have to convince him really hard to make him watch anything pre-Top Gun, with the exception of James Bond movies and Star Wars.

Available on Blu-ray

The Twilight Zone - Season 5: Some of the best writing there's ever been on TV comes back again on Blu-ray.

Available on Blu-ray

This article originally appeared over at Parcbench

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