Echo Bridge Entertainment has just released the 2001 modern-day Shakespeare adaptation O, the first time the Tim Blake Nelson-directed, Mekhi Phifer and Julia Stiles-starring film has been available on Blu-ray. Set in a high school, the movie is based on Shakespeare’s Othello.

I reviewed O over on The Morton Report, and you can read my complete thoughts about the movie and Blu-ray presentation here. In short, Echo Bridge has done a good job with the high definition presentation, considering it is a budget-priced release. I actually saw it in a big bin at Best Buy the other day, along with a ton of other recent Echo Bridge reissues (including the excellent Dirty Pretty Things), for the ridiculously low price of just $5.99.

Here is an excerpt of my O Blu-ray review:

“Hugo (Josh Hartnett) is the son of the high school basketball coach, Duke Goulding (Martin Sheen). Hugo is on the team, but he’s perpetually overshadowed by the Hawks’ stars, Odin James (Mekhi Phifer) and Michael Cassio (Andrew Keegan). Hugo hatches a complex scheme to disgrace Odin. He apparently figures if he can’t earn his dad’s respect, he can at least destroy the apple of his eye [Odin].

Julia Stiles plays Odin’s girlfriend, Desi Brable. Hugo manages to convince Odin that Desi is cheating on him with Michael. O works reasonably well as a kind of dark soap opera. Unlike some other modern adaptations, such as Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet (1996), it does not retain any of the original play’s iambic pentameter. Every aspect of the story has been modernized. Both Phifer and Stiles are effective in their roles…”

Again, the full review is available here. The 1080p transfer is sharp and the colors are vivid, though some mildly annoying dirt speckles pop up once in awhile. The audio is unremarkably good, doing just what it needs to (expect to boost the volume during some of Hartnett’s moody mumbling). Extras are limited – which will be obvious to anyone who owns the old two-DVD set. The Blu-ray loses some featurettes, director Nelson’s commentary, and the feature-length 1922 Othello. It does, however, retain deleted scenes (without the optional commentary the DVD featured) and a short compilation of promotional interviews.

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Chaz Lipp

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