The show everyone loves to hate (no, not Smash... the other one) leads off a slow week for TV on DVD releases.
The Killing: The Complete Second Season
After two seasons of snoozy story arcs, somnambulant performances and tone-deaf interviews from showrunner Veena Sud, AMC put its eternally frustrating murder mystery series out of its misery in an act that can only be labeled a mercy killing. But then for whatever reason (we suspect it has to do with the delays over getting another season of Hell on Wheels off the ground) , the network lost its nerve and resurrected The Killing for a third year that it will share with Netflix, which will stream all the episodes after the season wraps up its TV run. Sud must have made one hell of a sales pitch for Season 3, because the sophomore season isn't exactly a great advertisement for why the show should have returned. As the season begins, the killer of Rosie Larsen is still at large and incompetent cops Sarah Linden and Stephen Holder are still "investigating" the case, which doesn't exactly fill anyone with confidence about justice being done. The good news is that the season does end with the mystery finally solved. The bad news is that getting there is about as much fun as being caught in one of the Seattle area's numerous downpours.
Extras: As a manufactured-on-demand release, The Killing arrives sans bonus features. But that's okay, because viewers will be able to provide their own commentary track -- mainly consisting of "That's so dumb," and "I'm bored -- wanna skip to the finale?" -- from the comfort of their couches.
Click here to read our full weecaps of The Killing's second season
A companion piece, of sorts, to Philip Kaufman's 1990 theatrical feature Henry & June (which, fun fact, was the first film to be released with the NC-17 rating) about the sexually-charged relationship between authors Henry Miller and Anaïs Nun, the HBO telefilm Hemingway & Gellhorn tracks the torrid romance of novelist Ernest Hemingway (Clive Owen) and journalist Martha Gellhorn (Nicole Kidman) from their first meeting against the backdrop of the Spanish Civil War to their final parting back on American soil as Hemingway's alcohol-fueled rages inevitably drove her away. It's weighty subject matter and boy is this plus-sized movie dramatically leaden, stuffing two decades worth of story material into 155 minutes. The Spanish Civil War material would have made for a perfectly satisfying standalone movie, even with Kaufman's annoying habit of trying to recreate sepia-tinged newsreel footage whenever his leads get caught up in larger events and the script's clunky attempts to translate historical scene-setting into dialogue. Once the action shifts back stateside, however, the grand war movie sweep falls away and it becomes harder to ignore the bland characterizations and lack of chemistry between Kidman and Owen, two fine actors who never quite connect here. Hemingway & Gellhorn is too well-produced to be labeled bad, but don't feel guilty about finding it boring.
Extras: A commentary track with Kaufman and the film's ace editor, Walter Murch, as well as two making-of featurettes. The Bible: The Epic Miniseries
It may sound incongruous for a network calling itself The History Channel to air a full-scale, analysis-free dramatization of a book of mythological history, but from a ratings perspective, the idea proved to be a genius ploy. Produced by Mark Burnett and his wife Roma Downey (who uses that clout to cast herself in the pivotal role of the Virgin Mary), The Bible set viewership records for the network that up to now has been most famous for supplying all those World War II documentaries that were always playing on Tony Soprano's television. The 10-episode, 10-hour series covered such "historical" events as Noah's ark, Delilah giving Samson the world's worst haircut and, of course, the passion of the Christ. So what's left for the sure-to-be greenlit sequel? Well, there's always "Revelations," which will allow History to give HBO's Game of Thrones a run for its money in the dragon department.
Extras: A three-part "creation" story of how the series came to be, plus five additional featurettes.
Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out
From humble beginnings as a simple toy line, the Lego Star Wars franchise has grown into its own parallel Star Wars universe, encompassing video games, an online comic strip and half-hour animated films. Cartoon Network premiered the first of the latter last year, the Episode I send-up The Padawan Menace. As the title implies, this sequel -- which premiered on the channel in September -- takes place in between Episodes IV and V and features Lego-ized versions of all your favorite characters embarking on mostly nonsensical missions that exist primarily to allow for lots of kid-friendly gags, ranging from a new Death Star tricked out with Darth Maul's face to C-3P0 (voiced by Anthony Daniels, the one Star Wars cast member willing to attach his name to this iteration) getting left behind due to an ill-timed bathroom break. It's relentless silliness and utter disregard for continuity will probably piss off viewers who take the Star Wars mythology seriously, but then again those folks probably shouldn't be watching a Lego Star Wars animated movie anyway, at least not outside of the company of their 5-year-old kid. Time will tell if the franchise's new corporate overlords at Disney will allow these Lego tie-in movies to continue or if they'll go the way of The Clone Wars animated series.
Extras: None, but the set does come with a Darth Vader minifig, which is better than any commentary track for the movie's target demo.
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