It's a packed video week, including a frustrating TV series and one of my favorite movies of 2011.
The frustration accompanied The Killing: The Complete First Season (Fox, 13 episodes, $49.98 DVD, $59.99 Blu-ray). Based on a Danish drama, the AMC series about the investigation of the murder of young Rosie Larsen led viewers to believe that the mystery would be solved by the end of the first season. Then it wasn't. It should be in the show's second season, which begins April 1, although at which point is still open to question.
Anyway, the first season had a nice, grim quality and a strong lead in Mireille Enos as homicide detective Sarah Linden. But it was at times painfully slow, and I suspect some of the irritation with the unresolved mystery stemmed from how long the show was taking to tell its story.
The DVD and Blu-ray packages probably will have fans searching for more clues, since it includes deleted scenes and two cuts of the season finale, Orpheus Descending -- the televised version and one running about 2 1/2 minutes longer. Other extras include a making-of piece, bloopers, and commentary on the series pilot by executive producer Veena Sud and on the season finale by Enos and writer Nicole Yorkin.
As regular readers know, my favorite for Oscar love was The Descendants, the movie starring George Clooney and directed and co-written by Alexander Payne. I loved Clooney's performance as a man whose life has gotten very messy after his wife is injured in an accident, and the way the movie felt much like life itself. Unfortunately, the Oscar voters did not for the most part feel the same way, although it did win the award for adapted screenplay. You can see the value of the movie for yourself on DVD ($29.98) and in a Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo ($39.98).
The DVD version includes a few extras, including pieces about Clooney and Payne. The Blu-ray adds music videos, deleted scenes, and other material.
Speaking of the Oscars, Michelle Williams was among the nominees for best actress for playing Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn, the drama based on Colin Clark's memoir of being a gofer on The Prince and the Showgirl, a film starring Monroe and Laurence Olivier, played in the movie by Kenneth Branagh. It's one of the more notorious productions in screen history as Monroe and Olivier (who was also directing Prince) clashed over acting approaches and her personal habits.
Williams is quite good, as you can see in the DVD ($29.98) and Blu-ray/DVD combo ($39.99). She has a real gift for conveying Monroe's vulnerability and charm without slipping into pure imitation. But the movie itself is not as accomplished, since Clark (played by Eddie Redmayne) is often on the sidelines of events -- and I have little interest in his Learning A Valuable Lesson when there are far more interesting characters onscreen.
Extras include commentary by director Simon Curtis and a piece about Monroe.
Another movie with a strong lead in a so-so production is Young Adult (Paramount, $19.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray), with Charlize Theron playing an author of young-adult novels who tries to get her life on track by reclaiming her high school boyfriend, who is now married to someone else. The movie was much anticipated, since it reunited the Juno writing and directing team of Diablo Cody and Jason Reitman, but this does not measure up. It's not so much that Young Adult is sad as that it's sour, even bitter. Still, Theron impresses (as does Patton Oswalt as an old schoolmate).
Extras on DVD and Blu-ray include an audio commentary and deleted scenes; the Blu-ray adds a making-of piece and a Q&A with Reitman and critic Janet Maslin.
Also of note
The Swell Season (Docurama, $29.95), a documentary looking at singer-songwriters Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. You might recall them from the movie Once, and their Oscar-winning song Falling Slowly (still a favorite here). The documentary follows them in the wake of that Oscar success, and it's not all happy. The DVD adds deleted scenes and extended concert footage.
On the family video side, you can find Steven Spielberg's big-screen, well-animated The Adventures of Tintin (Paramount, $29.99 DVD, $39.99 DVD/Blu-ray/digital combo, $44.99 in a pack adding the 3-D Blu-ray). By the way, the first season of an old Adventures of Tintin TV series is on DVD, with the second season coming March 20. And there's Happy Feet Two, the sequel to the movie mega-hit; the second film was neither the critical nor box-office sensation of the first. It's available from Warner Bros. as a DVD with digital copy ($28.98), Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo ($35.99) and a package adding the 3-D version for $44.99.
And, decidedly not family video, are American Pie, American Pie 2, and American Wedding, all making their Blu-ray debuts (Universal, $19.98 each) before the series' fourth film, American Reunion, dives into theaters on April 6.