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New releases: 'Monsters University' is loaded with great jokes

Animation (Movie Genre)Tabu (movie)Monsters University (movie)Ed Begley Jr.Chris O'DowdJim PiddockFred Willard

Monsters University

Disney/Buena Vista, $29.99; Blu-ray, $39.99/$45.99/$49.99

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday

"Monsters, Inc." always has been one of the most underrated of Pixar's animated features, not getting enough credit for its zippy pace, cute beasties, clever visual gags and unexpectedly heartwarming ending. The prequel "Monsters University" made a ton of money this past summer, but the relatively mild response from critics suggests that it's on its way to being underrated too. The story of how the hulking James P. Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman) and the diminutive, one-eyed Mike Wazowski (Billy Crystal) met in college and became unlikely friends doesn't have the strong theme of the first film, but it's every bit as loaded with great jokes and state-of-the-art computer animation. The DVD and Blu-ray are also delightful, with genuinely informative featurettes, deleted scenes, commentary track and clever parodies of nonmonster college advertising.

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Family Tree: The Complete First Season

HBO, $29.98

It's been nearly a decade since comedian-director Christopher Guest made a movie as funny and rich as his and co-creator Jim Piddock's eight-episode HBO sitcom "Family Tree," which stars Chris O'Dowd as a rootless young man who looks into his lineage, traveling across the United Kingdom and to Los Angeles in search of distant relatives to help him understand who he is. The quest for identity lends the show a neat episodic structure and also makes Guest's usual assortment of eccentrics (played by the likes of Michael McKean, Ed Begley Jr., Fred Willard and the hilarious puppeteer Nina Conti) seem more sweet than mocking. The DVD includes extra scenes to tide fans over while they wait to see if there'll be a second season.

La Notte

Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

In the early '60s, Italian director Michelangelo Antonioni defined sophisticated ennui with movies such as 1961's "La Notte," starring Marcello Mastroianni as a famous author who glad-hands his way through a swank party while his wife (Jeanne Moreau) sinks further into depression over their loveless marriage. Voyeuristic and modern, "La Notte" has the quality of a literary novel, defining its characters' interior states, but with artfully composed images and camera moves instead of prose. It's one of the films that helped move Italian art-cinema beyond neorealism into equally sober but more cinematic films, dealing with the problems of the upper classes. Criterion's DVD and Blu-ray add interviews with historians.

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Tabu

Lorber, $29.95

Trying to explain the plot of Miguel Gomes' weird, winding "Tabu" would be a fool's errand. Shot in dreamy black and white and split into two parts (plus prologue), "Tabu" is ostensibly about a headstrong elderly woman named Aurora (Laura Soveral) who, near the end of her life, asks to be visited by an old acquaintance who proceeds to tell her friends the story of Aurora's younger years in Africa. "Tabu" is partly a film about Portugal, colonialism, romance and regret, but it's mostly about Gomes following a story wherever it leads, unconcerned about the ultimate destination.

And …

Byzantium

MPI, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.98

R.I.P.D.

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98/$49.98

Springsteen and I

Eagle Rock, $14.98; Blu-ray, $19.98

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Animation (Movie Genre)Tabu (movie)Monsters University (movie)Ed Begley Jr.Chris O'DowdJim PiddockFred Willard
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