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Season 5 of ‘Mad Men’ and the full series run of ‘Alcatraz’

Frank W. Ockenfels

This week’s DVD slate includes the fifth season of “Mad Men” (2012) and the full series run of “Alcatraz” (2012), a pair of TV releases that couldn’t quite match programming highs of a few years ago. That’s what some contend, anyway; we’d argue otherwise. “Mad Men” may have seen its Emmys dominance ended by “Homeland” at last month’s awards presentation, but season five nevertheless offers some of the trippiest material since Jon Hamm’s Don Draper had that lost weekend in Palm Springs. (And that’s on top of Jared Harris’s must-see exit as British ad man Lane Pryce.) There’s Roger Sterling (John Slattery) loosening his tie and dropping acid, of course, but just as weirdly fascinating is fever-stricken Don’s animalistic encounter with an ex-lover (Madchen Amick, “Twin Peaks”). In a stretch in which the writers seemed to have some difficulties reconciling hounddog Don with domesticated Don, this was a solid, jarring reminder of the character’s dark mystique. The set’s commentaries include creator Matthew Weiner discussing exactly where and when viewers are meant to grasp the reality of Don’s situation.

“Alcatraz,” meanwhile, is yet another case of J.J. Abrams and imitators trying to recapture the mystery-laden genre magic of “Lost” (see “Revolution,” “The Event,” “FlashForward,” etc.). But the show’s time-hopping convicts premise was promising — and its unresolved, one-and-done end is a bummer. Extras include interviews with cast and crew as well as former guards and inmates. (“Mad Men,” Lionsgate, $49.99; “Alcatraz,” Warner, $39.98; Blu-ray, $49.99)


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In Wes Anderson’s latest bit of signature whimsy, pre-adolescent Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward run away together on an island in New England, pursued by comically concerned adults. The movie is filled with characteristic slight pleasures — punctilious boy scouts, say, or a social worker billed only as “Social Services.” But what stands out most is how smoothly Anderson achieves his tone, whether working with troupe vets like Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, or newbies like Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, and Bruce Willis. Extras: Murray opens a set tour by saying, naturally, “Hello, I’m Bill Murray.” (Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98)



There’s some bona fide big-top wonder in this team-up between ragtag European circus critters (voices by Bryan Cranston and Martin Short) and our Central Park Zoo expat heroes (Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and Jada Pinkett Smith). Cascading, colorful 3-D performance sequences are sufficiently dazzling that you may forgive an act wasted on convoluted setup, and those relentless circus-afro ads. Extras: The usual mix of kid-targeted interactive bonuses and adult-oriented background material includes a Blu-ray segment titled “Ringmasters,” intriguingly following the directors through a single day in production. And yes, the hi-def edition does come packaged with a rainbow wig. (DreamWorks, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99)

Tom Russo can be reached at
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