The Complete Fourth Season: Whenever we rant about the need for Glee to finally become a "real show," this brilliant season of another often irritating, yet more often uplifting, TV phenomenon is what we mean. Creator David E. Kelley's slapstick musical paean to the modern working woman (anti-feminist arguments aside) reached a pinnacle of excellence in its fourth season. Lawyer Ally (the underappreciated Calista Flockhart) begins the season lost in her own lovesickness, paralyzed by musically endowed delusions – Chubby Checker, Josh Groban and Sting were among the guest stars this season – until she meets her soul mate, played by Robert Downey Jr. Things seem to be looking up for Ally until she overhears Downey Jr. play Joni Mitchell's "River" on the piano in a candid moment of Christmas blues. "Now I'm thinking his despair runs deeper than mine," she tells a friend. She's right. What follows between them is a study in how to push your series' lead to her breaking point without ringing a single false note. And there are many, many notes in this season. (available now)
Special Features: none;;
If you think U.S. movies feel the pressure of pleasing their audiences, check out how Sweden rolls. The country's government finances all of its homegrown films, which is pretty neat until you consider that the audience then has one thought to combat when sitting in the dark theater: "This is my taxpayer money at work." And this silly medieval drama, part one of a trilogy, is also the most expensive film ever made by Sweden at a mere $30 million. Now that's pressure. It's a film tailor-made for Neill Cumpston's fanboy eyes: men in tights, nuns in prison, cheesy swordfights and Stellan Skarsgard? God, it's awful. And so awesome. Good thing it didn't come out of our pockets. (available Oct. 12)
Special Features: More than 40 minutes of behind-the-scenes featurettes;;
A British family fed to the teeth with each other's failings and weaknesses departs on a road trip to Germany, their interlocking dysfunctions a tightly fitted puzzle of irritation and affection. Each character is sketched out deftly in the first five minutes of the film: the feckless son who has clearly let down his wife in the past and pays for it in marriage-counseling soundbites; his ditzy English rose of a mother and his tightly wound father, who has a secret regret gnawing at him. The desire to redress that regret is the mission Alistar (Benjamin Whitrow) undertakes. Comparisons to Little Miss Sunshine are inevitable, as plot points right down to the uncomfortable van are mirrored in Bomber, but luckily the performances here are similarly excellent. Despite the familiar formula, writer-director Paul Cotter offers no tidy endings. (available now)
Special Features: none;; [email protected]
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