One of the great delights of television is Mad Men, and its latest release on DVD and Blu-ray also sets a high bar in terms of extras.
Mad Men: Season Five (Lionsgate, 13 episodes, $49.98 on DVD and a penny more for the Blu-ray) offered a weird, grim and somehow exhilarating series of stories of ad man Don Draper (Jon Hamm), his colleagues and loved ones as they faced a world that was changing both in their business and in the culture at large in 1966. It was a season with death, rock music, LSD — and all the characters trying to figure out their place in life. Don, for example, had to play a different role in his advertising agency, and recognize that younger people with new ideas were coming along — and that one of those younger people was his new wife, Megan (Jessica Pare).
The DVD and Blu-ray sets, due out on Tuesday, are loaded with supplemental information, including commentary tracks on each episode, and in many cases more than one with an episode. Nor are these just idle chats. One of the commentaries on the season premiere has Hamm and Pare conversing about everything from their own characters, to the importance of costuming in a scene where old and young characters intersect, to technical challenges. Hamm points out an especially awkward cut between two camera shots of a scene, as well as noting how much work went into Pare’s singing in the season premiere.
Other extras include a piece called Mad Men Say the Darndest Things, an assembling of memorable lines from the show, with accompanying discussion by show writers. As with past Mad Men sets, there are segments providing historical context, such as a gallery of Newsweek magazine covers from the period. And, in a strange piece of cross-promotion, the set is sponsored by Canadian Club whisky, so there is not only a printed sheet with a couple of cocktail recipes but a video segment offering instruction in the drinks’ preparation.
Mad Men, by the way, will begin a new season in spring 2013.
Also from TV, a couple of series that did not last nearly as long as Mad Men will be available on video on Tuesday. Alcatraz: The Complete Series (Warner, 13 episodes, $39.98 DVD, $49.98 Blu-ray) presents the Fox thriller’s single season along with extras like a blooper reel and a closer look at the real-life prison. The Firm: The Complete Series (Entertainment One, 22 episodes, $39.99 DVD) offers the only season of that drama revisiting the characters from the John Grisham novel and Tom Cruise movie; extras include cast and crew interviews.
On the movie side, new offerings include the acclaimed Moonrise Kingdom (Universal, $29.98 DVD, $34.98 in a DVD/Blu-ray/digital combo). The film was not hugely successful at the box office but was still writer-director Wes Anderson’s most lucrative effort since The Royal Tenenbaums more than a decade ago, and an improvement on The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.
The cast includes Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton. And the quirky tale of two 12-year-olds (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) and their romantic pact had an enthusiastic critical following, with a 94 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Among the video extras are a making-of segment and a set tour conducted by Murray.
Where Moonrise Kingdom was a rebound of sorts for Anderson, the usually box-office-generating Adam Sandler had one of his low points with That’s My Boy (Sony, $30.99 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray), a comedy with Sandler as a ne’er-do-well trying to repair his relationship with his son (Andy Samberg). According to Rotten Tomatoes, it had more positive reviews than some other recent Sandler efforts, but moviegoers were still unenthusiastic — or just decided to wait for the video, available Tuesday.
Extras on DVD and Blu-ray include deleted scenes and bloopers; the Blu-ray adds several featurettes.
Also new among movies is 2016: Obama’s America (Lionsgate, $19.99 DVD), the documentary sharply critical of President Obama, and based on the book by Dinesh D’Souza. Its $33.3 million in box-office revenues make it the second-highest-grossing political documentary of all time, according to Box Office Mojo, and fourth most successful documentary of any kind, behind top-ranked Fahrenheit 9/11 ($119 million), March of the Penguins ($77.4 million) and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never ($73 million). The DVD has no extras.
Down video road: The Emmy-winning Game Change, which dramatized the 2008 presidential campaign and Sarah Palin’s place in it, will be on DVD and Blu-ray on Jan. 8, The Expendables 2 arrives in all formats on Nov. 20. My Big Fat Greek Wedding: 10th Anniversary Special Edition is due on Nov. 13.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can reach him at 330-996-3582 or firstname.lastname@example.org.