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Oscar Isaac, unplugged in Coen country

Alison Rosa/CBS FIlms via AP

The Coen brothers might have made a savvier choice than even they know by casting Oscar Isaac in “Inside Llewyn Davis” (2013). The brothers bring their customary dark wit and vivid characterization to their early-’60s folk-music portrait, which effectively splices the misunderstood artiste study of “Barton Fink” with the idiosyncratic musical preoccupations of “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Still, there’s a certain disingenuousness about multiple-Oscar-winning auteurs telling us, essentially, that art-as-commerce struggles are thankless and Llewyn’s pretensions and aspirations are a dead end. An emotionally undercut scene in which Llewyn’s gifts seem to at least bring comfort to his addled, elderly father is wildly cynical even for the Coens, and pretty off-putting. The flip side: Isaac makes his character compelling, whether he’s strumming in a club, or fumbling to face up to his buddy’s girl (Carey Mulligan) for doing her wrong, or attitudinally biting the many hands he mooches from. It’s not the first time that Isaac has done more lifting than he signed on for in a movie. See the darkly fantastical “Sucker Punch,” in which his addictive end-credits cabaret cover of “Love Is the Drug” (almost) offsets the movie’s skeevy hollowness. Or the Madonna-directed Wallis Simpson portrait “W.E.,” in which he partly redeems a ridiculous contemporary story thread. Extras: An amiably unplugged 40-minute production segment is all about the music, with Isaac and castmate Justin Timberlake jamming, and the Coens briefly discussing folk figure Dave Van Ronk as an inspiration. (Sony, $30.99; Blu-ray, $35.99)

Kerry Hayes/Relativity Media

CRIME DRAMA

OUT OF THE FURNACE (2013)

For all the personas Christian Bale can disappear into — Abscam artist, costumed vigilante, even Moses in the upcoming “Exodus” — he really does have a special knack for playing ragged. Witness his Oscar-winning work in “The Fighter,” or his mind-bender “The Machinist.” And now comes this revenge yarn from director Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”), which brings out the grit in its entire cast. Bale plays a hard-luck mill worker whose brother (Casey Affleck), a troubled Army vet, runs afoul of a vicious redneck (Woody Harrelson). With Zoe Saldana and Forest Whitaker. Extras: Blu-ray segments on Cooper and the film’s bare-knuckle boxing. (Fox, $22.98; Blu-ray, $29.99)

HISTORICAL DRAMA

THE BEST OF MEN (2012)

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This recently released disc is timed to the just-commenced Paralympic Games in Sochi, and billed as the story of the games’ founding by Sir Ludwig Guttmann (character actor Eddie Marsan, in a nice showcase). But that’s really only the story’s final chapter. The lengthy prelude details how Guttmann, a doctor and refugee from Nazi Germany, labored during WWII to change attitudes about the paraplegic British vets in his care, and their capacity for rehabilitation. Sentimental but eye-opening. Comedian Rob Brydon (Steve Coogan’s restaurant-tour companion in “The Trip”) spouts “M*A*S*H”-worthy wryness as one of Guttmann’s patients. (PBS, $24.99; available now)

Titles are in stores Tuesday unless specified. Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.
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