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: Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Co. continue to struggle for survival as they face a whole new set of challenges, including a deadly virus and the vengeful return of the Governor. But when the group is forced to flee the safety of the prison, the survivors get separated from one another and head for a sanctuary called Terminus.
WHY: The fourth season of “The Walking Dead” may be plagued by many of the same problems as previous years, but while its tendency to let plotlines drag on for too long causes the show to grind to a halt at times, the renewed focus on keeping the story moving even when its characters aren’t plays a huge part in its success. Though the first half of the season is bogged down by the silly virus storyline, the Governor’s return (from the pair of episodes detailing his whereabouts, to his eventual assault on the prison) serves as the impetus to the much stronger second half. It was a pretty gutsy move on the part of the writers to split up the group dynamic that makes the series so compelling, but it’s probably the best thing they could have done, because it’s refreshing to spend certain episodes focused on a handful of characters. Not only does it allow for more character development, but it gives some of the more peripheral characters their chance to shine. That may result in less thrills, but Season Four seems to have finally struck the perfect balance between zombie action and human drama, and although audiences love the former, there aren’t many shows that do drama better than “The Walking Dead.”
EXTRAS: In addition to cast and crew audio commentaries on four episodes, the Blu-ray set includes “Inside ‘The Walking Dead’” and “The Making of ‘The Walking Dead’” featurettes for each episode, some deleted scenes and additional featurettes on the parallels between the comic book and TV series, visual effects and more.
FINAL VERDICT: BUY
WHAT: Just as Jax (Charlie Hunnam) is beginning to legitimatize the motorcycle club’s business ventures, SAMCRO is targeted by a tough-as-nails district attorney (CCH Pounder) when the weapon used in a school shooting is traced back to them. Meanwhile, Clay (Ron Perlman) attempts to save his skin by striking a deal with the Irish, and Gemma (Katey Sagal) and Tara (Maggie Siff) butt heads once again.
WHY: Why: Ask any “Sons of Anarchy” fan what their least favorite season is and many will probably list the oft-criticized third season (AKA the Ireland one). But while the series has had enough crazy plotlines over the years to justify why some might view the show as nothing more than a male soap opera, it’s always backed them up with great characters and writing. That is, until Season Six, when it finally became too ridiculous for its own good. Though the biker drama’s penultimate season has plenty of things worth celebrating (including a larger role for Mark Boone Junior and excellent guest stars like CCH Pounder, Donal Logue and Walton Goggins), a lot of the conflict this time around seems to be less about driving the narrative than shocking the audience, none more so than the death of Maggie Siff’s Tara. While fans have been waiting to see Clay’s demise for years (and rightfully so), Tara’s murder-by-carving-fork comes across more like a desperate attempt at a cool cliffhanger than a fitting end to her season-long arc. Tara was destined to die, but not like this, and the treatment of that character is just one of the reasons why this season is the most disappointing to date.
EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes cast and crew commentaries on the season premiere and finale, deleted scenes, a gag reel, character goodbyes and all three episodes of the post-show specials “Anarchy Afterword.”
FINAL VERDICT: RENT
WHAT: After a disastrous blind date, single parents Jim (Adam Sandler) and Lauren (Drew Barrymore) vow never to see each other again. But when they receive a unique opportunity to take their respective families on an incredible vacation getaway to Africa, Jim and Lauren are surprised to discover that they’ve not only landed the same deal, but due to the nature of how they got the trip, all of their activities and meals at the resort are planned together.
WHY: Adam Sandler hasn’t made that many good movies in his 20-year career, but the ones co-starring Drew Barrymore are some of his best, so it only seemed natural that the duo team up again for a third romantic comedy. “Blended” is basically “The Brady Bunch” by way of Sandler’s goofball brand of humor, with the slight twist that each parent’s children are the opposite gender. It’s a cute idea, but it gets old real fast as the script constantly tries to mine laughs from the same few jokes and undermines emotional moments with stupid stuff like ostrich rodeos, bad child actors and rhinos having sex. Many of the recurring gags aren’t even funny the first time around, with the exception of the wacky lounge singer played by Terry Crews, who’s probably the funniest part of the film. The one thing that saves “Blended” from descending too far into Sandler’s usual sophomoric comedy is the scenes between him and Barrymore. The actress always seems to bring out the best in Sandler, and the pair has an undeniable chemistry that is fun to watch develop onscreen. There’s no need for the will-they-won’t-they drama to last nearly two hours, but they at least make it a little more bearable, and that’s about the best that can be said for “Blended.”
EXTRAS: The Blu-ray release includes an interview with Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, deleted scenes, a gag reel and nine short featurettes covering various elements of production, including actress Bella Thorne’s “makeover,” location shooting in Georgia and more.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP
WHAT: When he awakens bloodied and clutching a shotgun in the middle of a strip joint littered with dead bodies, timid Christmas tree maker Oscar (Kyrre Hellum) attempts to prove his innocence to a skeptical police detective (Henrik Mestad) by recounting what really happened after him and three friends won a soccer bet worth millions.
WHY: Though it may be based on a story by red-hot Norwegian crime author Jo Nesbo (whose novel “Headhunters” was adapted into the excellent and underseen movie of the same name), “Jackpot” fails to live up to his reputation. It’s as if Nesbo and writer/director Magnus Martens locked themselves in a room for the weekend and watched every film by Quentin Tarantino and the Coen brothers before deciding that they could make something just as good. Unfortunately, this dark comedy thriller doesn’t even come close to matching the work of those directors. Every single plot twist can be seen from a mile away, and though there are a few laughs to be had, it’s never as clever or as funny as it pretends to be. Released in Norway back in 2011, there’s a reason why U.S. audiences are just hearing about the movie, and that’s because it’s yet another half-baked Tarantino wannabe. No doubt intended as a quick cash-in now that Nesbo has become a household name, “Jackpot” is more “Very Bad Things” than “Reservoir Dogs,” which is pretty much all you need to know about this Nordic dud.
EXTRAS: There’s a behind-the-scenes look at making the film.
FINAL VERDICT: SKIP