Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on Facebook and Twitter with your friends.
WHAT: The power struggle across Westeros continues as Lord Tywin takes over as Hand of the King following his victory at Blackwater Bay, leaving Tyrion suddenly powerless and forcing Stannis back to Dragonstone to lick his wounds. Meanwhile, Robb Stark’s campaign against the Lannisters gets fiercer, Daenerys builds her army from afar, Arya earns new allies in her quest for revenge and Jon Snow goes undercover with the wildlings. And that’s just the first few episodes…
WHY: Creators David Benioff and D.B Weiss have stated numerous times that they set Season Three as the unofficial benchmark as to whether or not the show would be a success, and it’s easy to see why, because it showcases the full complexity and richness of the universe that they inherited from George R.R. Martin. The third season expands its scope even further than the previous year, with several new characters quickly making their mark, and old ones (like Nikolaj Coster-Waldau’s Jamie Lannister, one of the season’s MVPs) continuing to evolve within that moral gray area where “Game of Thrones” thrives. It also featured some of the most shocking story developments to date, perhaps none more so than Episode 9’s infamous Red Wedding, which made Ned Stark’s beheading look like child’s play in comparison and was without a doubt one of the biggest television events of last year. (So much so that HBO is spoiling it in their commercials for the Blu-ray/DVD release.) The audience reaction to that episode is very telling of the show’s pop cultural footprint, and when the writing and acting is this good, it’s no surprise why its popularity continues to grow.
EXTRAS: As usual, there’s plenty to dig into here, including 12 audio commentaries with the cast and crew, an in-depth look at the making of “The Rains of Castamere,” a Season Two recap, featurettes on the show’s new characters, politics of marriage and wildlings, five deleted/extended scenes and the customary interactive guides.
FINAL VERDICT: BUY
WHAT: Rachel (Kathryn Hahn) is a thirty-something stay-at-home who’s become bored with her daily routine, lackluster sex life and failed career. Looking to spice things up, Rachel takes her husband (Josh Radnor) to a strip club one night and meets erotic dancer McKenna (Juno Temple), who she becomes obsessed with saving, only to cause more harm than good.
WHY: “Afternoon Delight” feels like a spiritual companion piece to Judd Apatow’s “This Is 40,” only not quite as dreadful to watch. Much like that movie, Jill Soloway’s directorial debut examines a middle-aged woman trying to break the soul-crushing routine that she’s become far too comfortable living. It’s something that most people dread happening at one point in their life, but it’s hard to feel bad for characters that already have so much going for them. And therein lies the problem with “Afternoon Delight.” Though its intentions are admirable, the film asks you to pity a woman who doesn’t really have the right to complain nearly as much as she does. Kathryn Hahn turns in a solid performance as the woman in question, and Juno Temple shines as the sex worker she takes in to her home, but while the movie gets off to a strong start as the two ladies form their friendship, the latter half is so ugly in its attempt to create conflict between them that it leaves a bitter taste in your mouth.
EXTRAS: There’s an audio commentary with writer/director Jill Soloway and actress Kathryn Hahn, a behind-the-scenes featurette and some deleted scenes.
FINAL VERDICT: RENT