This Week in Blu-ray / DVD Releases: Mad Men, That's My Boy, Madagascar 3, Chernobyl Diaries ...
This week: Mad Men gets mighty dark for Season 5; mutant fun with Chernobyl Diaries; and some Madagascar and Avatar for your 3-D TV.
► The long wait for Season 5 of MAD MEN was so worth it, as the show’s increased tension and violence mirrored the unrest starting to take hold in the mid ‘60s. It’s best summed up in a scene where Don cues up The Beatles’ ‘Tomorrow Never Knows,’ and turns it off halfway through with mild disgust. A truly dark season with Pete revealing himself a bigger scumbag than we all thought, Joan whoring herself out for the company, and the death of a recurring character which felt like a turning point for the series. The best season yet, but the first one not to win the Emmy for Best Drama.
► Wait a sec, didn’t we just discuss THAT’S MY BOY a few weeks ago? Uh, yes, our bad. It actually comes out this week, which gives me a second chance to admit a few good laughs but declare Adam Sandler all but dead to the $100 million club. ‘Jack and Jill’ screwed his fans so bad they sat this one out, even though it’s considerably better. He plays a loser grasping to the fame he enjoyed as a high school kid who nailed his teacher while making amends to the son that resulted (Andy Samberg). Sandler’s usual buddies show up, but Eva Amurri as the teacher and real-life mom Susan Sarandon as the older version is a definite bonus.
► Oren Peli tried to recapture some of that ‘Paranormal Activity’ magic for CHERNOBYL DIARIES. He ended up with a forgettable retread of ‘The Hills have Eyes.’ After a group of “extreme tourists” sneak into the radiated ghost town of Prypiat, near Chernobyl, their van is sabatoged and they’re on the run from the town’s mutated inhabitants. Blu-ray includes an alternate ending. Unfortunately, not an alternate movie.
► How’s this for a kick in the sack – MADAGASCAR 3: EUROPE’S MOST WANTED is the 7th biggest hit of the year. And I don’t even remember it opening (look ma, no kids). By all accounts, Part 3 looks to be just as mediocre as the first two, with the critters globetrotting through Europe while trying to find their way back home to New York. This built-in babysitter includes plenty of extras if you want to squeeze in a quickie
► Depending on what type of horror buff you are, the early ‘80s was either the genre’s last golden age or the moment things bottomed out. ‘Friday the 13th’ inspired a shitload of copycats, and few of them have aged well. Among the biggest culprits was TERROR TRAIN, with Jamie Lee Curtis in her Scream Queen prime as one of the college coeds being stalked on a steam train on New Year’s Eve. The scariest part is seeing Oscar winner Ben Johnson in the cast. Much better is THE FUNHOUSE, which at the time was hyped as Tobe Hooper’s best thing since ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’ (“Poltergeist’ would be his next movie). Great effects by Rick Baker in one of his last real horror movies, and a fun - if predictable – story of two teenaged couples being hunted by a deformed circus freak at the carnival. The talent involved elevates it above most of the era’s dreck.
► When a show’s first season is released on Blu-ray and it’s also called ‘The Complete Series,’ you know things didn’t go well. ALCATRAZ was preceded by endless commercials on Fox during NFL games, prompting 10 million people to tune in for the premiere. By the final episode four months later, it was less than half that. Producer J.J. Abrams couldn’t get that ‘Lost’ mojo back, and high-concept TV takes another nutshot.
► What’s this, the fifth or sixth edition of AVATAR? How many ways can they milk it before the sequel finally arrives? Here’s the 3-D Blu-ray, which is the only version that even comes close to replicating what we saw in theatres. This only includes the theatrical version so, yes, expect yet another 3-D edition of the extended cut. Don’t close your Cameron account just yet.
Also out this week:
SO WHAT DVD/BLU-RAYS ARE YOU GUYS STOKED ABOUT THIS WEEK?!