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Have a laugh Noel Coward story, ABC series keep the tone light

What do a British film adaptation of a 1924 Noel Coward play and a smart ABC detective series have in common?

They're both a good time. So if you're looking for a laugh, check out two different, but funny, new DVD releases: the film adaptation of Coward's "Easy Virtue" and the ABC series "Castle."

"Easy Virtue" ($28.96, $39.95 Blu-ray; Sony, available now) is a delightful romp at a British country estate where a naive young lad has brought home his new bride to meet the family. The sexy bride, however, is a feminist race-car driver, a smoker and -- the horror! -- American.

The family proves that even those gorgeous old estates house dysfunctional families. Colin Firth plays the dad, a haggard-looking chap who doesn't seem to care much about anything since returning from the war. Kristen Scott Thomas plays the uptight, upperclass Mom. The son is the appealing Ben Barnes ("The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian"), who breaks into a quick song or two in the film.

That sexy, daring wife Larita is played by the usually sexy Jessica Biel. This time, however, she looks a bit odd with platinum blonde hair framing a face that looks like a mask with skin pulled taut and a mouth two sizes too big for her face. Plus, her talents aren't up to that of the rest of the cast.

"Easy Virtue" was so much fun, I wanted to watch it again right away. Just check out the hilariously dark scene involving a little dog: It had this dog owner cringing in horror while heartily laughing with guilt.

The DVD has four deleted scenes, two of which would have added to the dynamic between characters if it was kept in; a blooper reel and commentary by director Stephan Elliot and writer Sheridan Jobbins. The "New York Premiere" featurette has interviews at the premiere with the actors interspersed with movie scenes. ("I think disaster is funny," Firth says.")

ABC premiered "Castle" ($39.99, ABC Studios, available Tuesday) as a midseason replacement in the spring.

It stars Nathan Fillion as the hugely successful crime thriller author Richard Castle, who is just as much of a celebrity as he is a writer. He knows people in high places, lives in a great New York apartment (with his daughter and mom who bring him down to earth) and he has a wicked sense of humor.

The series has him shadowing tough NYPD Detective Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) to use her as a muse for his latest fictional character, NYPD Detective Nikki Heat. Of course, her no-nonsense attitude and his charming arrogance have them bickering and flirting -- and they do it well. Fillion plays his character with a wink and a nudge, with Katic matching him every step of the way. (That book, "Heat Wave," by the way, is released Sept. 29 by Hyperion Books, complete with an author's photo of Castle himself.)

The three-disc set comes with bloopers and outtakes, commentaries and interviews. You'll hear Lackawanna native Ruben Santiago Hudson sum up a key characteristic of the show when he says, "We can make you laugh over a dead body." Featurettes include the silly "Write-Along With Nathan Fillion," in which the actor spends a day following television producer, write and author Stephen J. Cannell. It's a hoot.

* "Mental" ($59.98, Warner Home Video, available Tuesday). It's almost joyful to watch Simon Baker play the mentalist who helps solve crime cases with his childlike glee, all while harboring the dark pain of a family tragedy. This six-disc set comes with a color booklet with episode descriptions. Deleted scenes, called "Lost Evidence," are on three of the discs. "Evidence of a Hit Series" is a 24-minute chat with the cast members and executive producer Bruno Heller. Baker calls the show a procedural drama that "winks at itself."

"Cracking the Crystal Ball: Mentalist vs. Psychic," is a bit confusing as all sorts of folks define and debate mentalists and psychics, with the terms "unstable" and "not stable" popping up, as well as the phrase "the blind squirrel eventually gets the nut."

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>DVD Extra

"Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death" -- Nick Park brings us a new mystery caper featuring the animated duo. A making-of feature, commentary, video game and bonus episode of "Shaun the Sheep" are included. ($14.98, Lionsgate/HIT Entertainment. Available Tuesday.)

e-mail: truberto@buffnews.com

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