This week’s releases include an excess of blood and mutants; the latest chapter from the salacious world of advertising; a song that is an unsuspected ear worm; and a stellar film from a rising filmmaker.
Alcatraz: The Complete Series (Blu-ray)
In 1963, all prisoners were transferred from Alcatraz Island Federal Penitentiary. Or so we were told. Now America’s worst criminals – known as the 63s – are returning to the streets of San Francisco to repeat their grisly crimes. It’s up to top-notch Detective Rebecca Madsen (Sarah Jones) and Alcatraz expert Diego “Doc” Soto (Jorge Garcia) to work with FBI Agent Emerson Hauser (Sam Neill) and Dr. Lucy Banerjee (Parminder Nagra) to learn why the 63s are back and to uncover a much larger, more sinister threat.
Special feature not available. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Chernobyl Diaries (Blu-ray)
A group of six young vacationers looking to go off the beaten path hire an "extreme" tour guide. Ignoring warnings, he takes them into the city of Pripyat, the former home to the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear reactor, but a deserted town since the disaster more than 25 years ago. After a brief exploration of the abandoned city, however, the group soon finds themselves stranded, only to discover that they are not alone.
This is somewhat of a modern and foreign take on The Hills Have Eyes. The victims of the nuclear disaster similarly brutalize the unsuspecting tourists, even dragging them from their vehicle. The movie eventually devolves into a chase film with the dwindling number of characters running screaming for their lives through an underground maze that is still radioactive. Their pursuers are generally unseen save for brief glimpses or shadowy outlines. Noteworthy is the way the narrative links back to the beginning, explaining an earlier occurrence as well as the source of their current predicament.
Special feature not available. (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord), a disturbed and delusional high school student with aspirations of a career in medicine, goes to extremes to earn the approval of her controlling mother (Traci Lords) in this twisted coming-of-age shocker.
A lot of kids dream of being a doctor, but few experience the deeply disturbing blood fantasies of Pauline. She dreams in gory detail about severed heads, maimed but animated corpses and bathtubs filled with blood. In her waking life, Pauline is socially awkward and outspoken, but driven to achieving her goal of becoming a surgeon - sooner rather than later. She devours textbooks, pondering self-performed cosmetic surgery and ways to improve her sister's health. The many small roles played by cult icons also colour the type of movie this is, including Lords, John Waters, Ray Wise and Malcolm McDowell. Definitely not for the squeamish, this movie pushes the viewer's capacity for blood play before reaching its horrific but inevitable conclusion.
Special features include: commentary by writer/director Richard Bates, Jr. and actress AnnaLynne McCord. (Anchor Bay Entertainment)
Mad Men: Season Five (Blu-ray)
This season takes place between Memorial Day 1966 and Spring 1967. Don Draper's (Jon Hamm) new marriage to Megan (Jessica Paré) is a major focus as it leads him to ignore his work at the Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce. Meanwhile, Pete (Vincent Kartheiser), Roger (John Slattery), Joan (Christina Hendricks), and Peggy (Elisabeth Moss) learn that it is "every man for himself" in their personal and professional lives, as they each face painful new beginnings.
Don Draper began this season a different man. A devoted husband indulging in his honeymoon period, he only had eyes for Megan. In a way, he became somewhat less interesting. But this allowed for other characters to gain even more attention; Joan, in particular, benefitted from this shift. Unsurprisingly, her domestic situation unraveled, leaving her stronger after (finally) confronting her controlling husband. But while she is once again in charge, what she does with her recovered power is controversial at best. With Peggy finally flying coup, Pete spiraling and Pryce dead, it will be interesting to see how the agency manages in the new season - and if the ambiguous final scene this season signals the return of Don of old.
Special features include: commentary by cast and crew; “Mad Men Say the Darndest Things”; “What Should I Love if not the Enigma”; “The Party of the Century”; Scoring Mad Men: Inside a Session”; “The Uniform Time Act of 1966”; and Newsweek magazine digital gallery. (Alliance Films)
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
Alex (Ben Stiller), Marty (Chris Rock), Melman (David Schwimmer) and Gloria (Jada Pinkett Smith) find themselves on-the-run through Europe. With the fame-loving King Julien (Sacha Baron Cohen) and the take-charge Penguins along for the ride, the whole crew joins the circus to escape Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand) of animal control.
While the first film maintains the honour of introducing these crazy characters, the latest film may be the best of the three. The opening act in Africa is a little dull, but once they begin their European adventure, the story really picks up. The circus animals are amusing new personalities, whose voice cast continues the all-star lineup with Bryan Cranston, Martin Short and Jessica Chastain. The Penguins are always a source of hilarity, but they are mostly on the sidelines for this one. While it’s short and subtle, there is a great reaction from Maurice when it appears King Julien has failed to escape a fatal fall. But his burden may be lifted anyway now that Julien has fallen in love, though Sonya isn’t the first woman that would come to mind. And Dubois is ridiculous in her persistence and superhuman prowess.
Special features include: commentary by the filmmakers; deleted scenes; “Big Top Cast”; “Mad Music Mash-up”; “Get Them to the Train”’ “The Animator’s Corner”; “Ringmasters”; roundtable; and trivia track. (DreamWorks Animation)
Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
Pete’s Dragon (DVD & Blu-ray combo pack)
When Pete, an orphan, and his best friend Elliot – an invisible green dragon – wander into the seaside village of Passamaquoddy, the townspeople think he's behind a slew of hilarious mishaps. But after a daring rescue, they change their tune and believe in Pete's fire-breathing buddy.
Special features not available. (Disney Pictures Home Entertainment)
Red Lights (Blu-ray)
World renowned investigator of paranormal hoaxes Dr. Margaret Matheson (Sigourney Weaver) and her young assistant, Tom Buckley (Cillian Murphy), study the most varied metaphysical phenomena with the aim of proving their fraudulent origin. When legendary blind psychic Simon Silver (Robert De Niro) reappears after an enigmatic 30 year absence, his once-fearless adversary Matheson warns Buckley to back off. But Tom's intense obsession with disproving Silver's powers soon threatens his scientific worldview to its core and puts his very life in danger.
Writer/director Rodrigo Cortés showed he had a talent for the unconventional when he took a script about a man trapped in a box and created Buried. That led to the opportunity for him to bring this project to fruition and audiences will be thankful for the chance to see it. The story is intricate and Cortés builds a foreboding atmosphere that hovers over the entire picture until the revealing climax. De Niro shows that in spite of his recent track record, he’s still capable of turning in a powerful performance that dominates a role. Murphy is excellent, once again displaying a deep dramatic ability to its fullest extent. The second half of the film is operatic and a fitting conclusion to an overall achievement in filmmaking.
Special features include: a making-of featurette, “Turning on the Red Lights.” (Alliance Films)
That’s My Boy (Blu-ray)
While still in his teens, Donny (Adam Sandler) fathered a son, Todd (Andy Samberg), and raised him as a single parent until Todd's 18th birthday. Now, after not seeing each other for years, Todd's world comes crashing down on the eve of his wedding when an uninvited Donny suddenly shows up. Trying desperately to reconnect with his son, Donny is now forced to deal with the repercussions of his bad parenting skills with outrageous events happening along the way.
Special features include: deleted scenes; “Who Are All These People?”; “Greetings From Cape Cod”; “Classy Rick’s Bacon and Leggs” and gag reel. (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)