This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: Blended, The Walking Dead...
This week: Sandler and Barrymore go for the hat trick, The Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy serve up some pain, and an awesome new All That Jazz.
► Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore reunite with their ‘The Wedding Singer’ director Frank Coraci for the indescribably bland BLENDED. It’s not even awful in an offensive way, just a limp, uninspired way you’ll find difficult to hate because that’s more emotion than this movie deserves. Sandler is widower with three daughters who goes on a bad blind date with a divorcee (Barrymore) with two sons. Of course, they all end up in Africa together, because why not? Not Sandler’s worst (especially not lately), but why won’t he challenge himself any more? There’s nothing left to prove with movies like this.
► And so it continues: Fans gripe about THE WALKING DEAD, while ratings keep going up. Sure, Season 4 had a few clunkers (the Lizzie episode, ‘The Grove,’ is the biggest dud of the series), but this was a strong one overall. Life at the prison goes to hell in the first half, which sees the return of The Governor, but it’s the polarizing second half of the season - with the gang separated, converging on a supposed sanctuary called Terminus – that the show gets into a groove again. The season finale is tense and terrific. Take a hike, cynics, I can’t wait for Season 5.
► Ryan Murphy reins in his ‘Glee’ and ‘American Horror Story’ excess for the outstanding A NORMAL HEART, depicting the rise of HIV/AIDS in New York in the early ‘80s. If you can remember this time, you’ll recall people basically lost their minds, treating gay culture like an epidemic sent to wipe us out (seriously, it was messed up). Mark Ruffalo plays a gay writer/activist watching his friends die of a mysterious new ailment. When it’s clear the disease is striking primarily homosexual men, he pushes the government and media to take notice. The response he got was shameful. Julia Roberts, Taylor Kitsch and Alfred Molina co-star.
► The main event this week has to be the Criterion Collection’s digitally restored ALL THAT JAZZ, Bob Fosse’s classic 1979 musical on the making of musicals. Roy Scheider, basically playing Fosse, is a chain-smoking director trying to stage a Broadway show while editing a film he directed. When his overstressed heart finally gives out before the show opens, he revisits his self destructive life in a series of musical visions shared with the Angel of Death (Jessica Lange). Lots of Fosse footage in the extras, along with select commentary by Scheider and a 2007 documentary on the film’s great music (George Benson’s ‘On Broadway’ gloriously starts things off).
► Whatever complaints SONS OF ANARCHY was going soft on its characters went bye-bye in Season 6 - a mostly grim and gut wrenching 13 episodes in which three major characters bid adieu. With SAMCRO taking heat for a school shooting (the kid used one of their guns), they deal with a vengeful U.S. Marshal, an angry IRA, and a scheming Clay in prison. But it’s the deteriorating Jax/Tara relationship that becomes the focus, leading to a brutal finale that pretty much guarantees a tragic ending for everyone in the upcoming final season. Sutter always said the show’s template was a Shakespeare tragedy, so here comes the pain.
► THE DOUBLE has Jesse Eisenberg has an office drone who comes to work one day to see his boss talking to his doppelganger. While they’re physically the same, this ‘other’ him is more confident, charismatic and smooth with the ladies, including the coworker he’s sweet on (Mia Wasikowska). Paranoid comedy based on an 1846 novella by Fuoder Dostoyevsky.
► Despite plenty of talent and a pent-up demand, the 1985 TV comeback of THE TWILIGHT ZONE was a disaster from the get-go. Without Rod Serling’s vision tying everything together, the show never gelled in its hour-long format. It went back to half-hour episodes for Season 2, but by then ratings were dismal and the network lost interest (even the original series rarely felt the love of CBS). Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren and Martin Landau make appearances, while the awesome writing talent included George R.R. Martin, Stephen King, Harlan Ellison and future comic great J. Michael Straczynski. The complete series DVD includes all 65 episodes.
► Hokey ending aside, THE LEGEND OF HELL HOUSE is one of the best supernatural flicks of the ‘70s, with Roddy McDowell leading a group of psychic investigators sent to document the spirits inhabiting a mansion where a massacre took place. Based on a Richard Matheson book, it’s wonderfully creepy with some scares that still hold up. Shout! Factory blu-ray includes new interview with director John Hough.
Also out this week:
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SO WHAT DVD/BLU-RAYS ARE YOU GUYS STOKED ABOUT THIS WEEK?!