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The Kids Are All Right (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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Two of the year’s best performances by actresses are contained in this film about a lesbian couple, their two children and the introduction into their lives of the guy who fathered the kids.

Annette Bening is sure to get an Oscar nomination, and Julianne Moore might be right there with her; they play two women who react to the presence of their children’s father (Mark Ruffalo, who is also deserving of a nomination) in very different ways.

This film is an acting powerhouse that is also very funny and often touching.

SPECIAL FEATURES: A director’s commentary and a making-of featurette.

Metalocalypse: Season 3 (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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Creator Brendon Small doubled the length of his hilarious death-metal cartoons for its third season, and the longer format serves the stories well. Season highlights include the members of mighty fictional metal-band Dethklok quitting to join a Dethklok tribute band, and enduring their crazy mothers during the holiday season—and, yes, there are more adventures with Doctor Rockzo, the rock ‘n’ roll cocaine clown.

This is the first season to get a Blu-ray treatment, and it’s worth the extra bucks. This is actually a well-animated series, and the art looks super-nice—not to mention super-twisted—in high definition.

As for the music, Small actually goes beyond the usual death-metal greatness with funny anthem rock delivered by Doctor Rockzo at his big reunion concert. There’s also a strange Auto-Tune song when one of the band members fantasizes about a girl he’s going to meet. The show benefits from strong songwriting; it’s music that’s funny when it needs to be and technically impressive.

SPECIAL FEATURES: There are some nice music videos, deleted and extended scenes, and—one of the strangest supplements ever—a 40 minute video of lead singer Nathan Explosion reading Othello in a sound booth. (I might be alone here, but I fully appreciate this particular feature, especially when Nathan suggests Jaden Smith for the title part.)

The Twilight Zone: Season 2 (Blu-ray)





(OUT OF 10)

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The second season of Rod Serling’s anthology series featured classics such as “Long Distance Call,” in which Billy Mumy talks to his dead grandma on a toy phone; “Eye of the Beholder,” showing a very strange thing that happens to a woman getting plastic surgery, and “Nick of Time,” in which William Shatner gets obsessed with a fortune-telling machine in a small-town diner.

You also get “The Night of the Meek,” starring Art Carney as a department-store Santa who likes to drink, and “The Howling Man,” in which a strange religious cult has the devil locked away in a room. Some of the episodes are a bit melodramatic and feel contrived, but the series was still young, and things definitely improved as the show went along. Burgess Meredith, so good as the man who broke his glasses after the apocalypse in the first season, returns in the humorous “Mr. Dingle, the Strong.”

While the series always had its share of clunkers, they are worth wading through for the episodes that get it right. The show really hit its stride in Season 3, due out on Blu-ray in February.

SPECIAL FEATURES: Lots of supplements, including interviews, commentaries and radio plays. There’s a lot of work going into these releases.

The Expendables (Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy)





(OUT OF 10)

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Sylvester Stallone had his third box-office success in a row (after his conclusions to the Rocky and Rambo franchises) with this well-intentioned misfire. The problem here is that Stallone surrounds himself with a bunch of action-hero has-beens at a time when his own star is back on the rise. He tries to sell Jason Statham, Jet Li and Stone Cold Steve Austin as huge action heroes, and he sort of fails.

That’s not to say the pic is without its moments. The historic scene with Sly, Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger is sweet, and some of the action scenes pop. There’s plenty of gore, but it is often of the computer-generated variety, and it doesn’t always look good.

Now that the movie scored decent box office, perhaps the studio will pony up some extra dollars for a sequel, and Stallone could afford some better co-stars (like Dwayne Johnson), or perhaps get more screen time for Willis. I never lose faith in Stallone ... I just get a little bored with him sometimes.

SPECIAL FEATURES: I might not be crazy about the movie, but the Blu-ray is great. It has plenty of behind-the-scenes stuff, including “Ultimate Recon Mode,” with Sly giving a commentary (sometimes including video) as the movie plays. You also get deleted scenes, a gag reel and much more.

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