Welcome to the DVD & Games Forecast for December 1, 2009.

These are the fairly lean days now, the weeks between Thanksgiving and the end of the year.  There are still good titles coming out, but compared to the glut we've gotten for the last few months, it's slowed down considerably.  Still, there are plenty of ways to clean out your wallet completely with new releases, and since I'm so sick right now that even my teeth hurt, let's try to get through this with no fuss and no muss, eh?  

THIS WEEK'S FEATURED TITLES:

"James Cameron's Avatar: The Game" (PS3/XBOX 360/PSP/Wii/DS)

I know... I know... never get excited about a movie tie-in game.  Only Ubisoft is the company behind this, they had three years to work on the game instead of the normally telescoped process most movie tie-ins suffer from, and the demo I saw at E3 this year was actually very cool.  So color me interested in this one, and as soon as I finish Ubisoft's amazing "Assassin's Creed II," I have a feeling this will be the next game I chip away at, which should help me assuage my almost chemical need to see the film as soon as possible. You play as both human and Na'vi characters at different stages in the game, which is set before the film, so you don't have to worry about spoilers destroying the film experience for you.  Now if only I had that 103-inch HD 3D monitor that I saw the game demo on...

"Mystery Science Theater 3000 XVI" (DVD)

I'm so glad Shout! Factory inherited this license from Rhino, because they've done everything right since getting their hands on it.  This is the second of the box sets to include a collectible figure, and this time it's Tom Servo, who now stands next to Crow T. Robot on top of my desktop computer.  This is a particularly worthwhile addition to the collections already out there.  In addition to "Santa Claus," one of my all-time favorite films to air on MST3K, one of the discs actually features all the bumpers from the amazing Turkey Day marathon where Mike Nelson's drunken Jack Perkins ends up hitting on Bridget Jones's Mr. B Natural. I howled just as loudly this time as I did when I originally watched it.  Throw in the miserable "Warriors Of The Lost World," "The Corpse Vanishes," and "Night Of The Blood Beast," and fans are going to be in heaven when they crack this one open this week.

"Saturday Night Live: The Complete Fifth Season" (DVD)

Someone recently told me that Universal/NBC is cancelling this DVD series, and if that's true, I'm profoundly sad.  As a lifelong fan of SNL, and as someone who has grown up watching each of these seasons live, it has always infuriated me that all of the repackaging of the series has always been cut up, edited, and there's always been material that was lost.  When they started releasing the full seasons uncut, I felt like they were finally treating this show with the respect it deserves.  And, hey, I don't love every season of the show.  I rarely watch it anymore, truth be told, but I think it holds a unique place in film and TV history, and I think it's important that these shows be preserved as they originally aired.  This release gives me some hope that my friend's pronouncement of the DVD releases as "dead" was premature, and that we will indeed see this release schedule continue in the future.  And if not, the first five years is a pretty damn good run of shows, well worth owning.

"Paper Heart" (BluRay/DVD)

Imagine "(500) Days Of Summer" without all the affectations and all the pop music and without two leads determined to out-pretty each other, and you've got "Paper Heart," a sweet, sincere story disguised as a documentary about Charlyne Yi, who doesn't believe in love, accidentally meeting the right guy at the wrong time, played by Michael Cera.  Since Charlyne and Michael appear as "Charlyne" and "Michael," and since they actually dated at one point, and since director Nicholas Jasenovec is a character in the film (played by Jake Johnson), what's real and what's fake gets confusing pretty quickly, and in the end, is totally unimportant.  The whole thing is honest about how confusing and overwhelming and transformative love can be, and since it's such a small film that so few people saw, I want to urge you to check it out now that it's on video.  Here's my original review, and a brief chat with the filmmakers at Sundance.

"Gremlins" (BluRay)

This has been available as a Target exclusive for a few weeks now, but today, everyone can pick up "Gremlins" on BluRay.  If you do not know why that is a good thing, you are reading the wrong blog.

ALSO ON BLURAY:

The two big blockbusters that are being released today, "Terminator Salvation" (BluRay/DVD) and "Night At The Museum: Battle Of The Smithsonian" (BluRay/DVD), are both flawed in different ways, but I'm sure both have their fans, and I'm curious to see what the director's cut of "Terminator Salvation" does differently.  You can read my reviews of both of them here and here from this summer if you'd like.  I guess both Universal and Sony are taking advantage of the hype machine that's about to kick into overdrive for "Sherlock Holmes" by releasing "Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels" (BluRay) and "Snatch" (BluRay) this week.  I've got them both here and plan to revisit them before I see "Sherlock" later this week.  Criterion's got two new BluRay titles out this week.  One, "Gimme Shelter" (BluRay), is already out on DVD from them, and the other is part of their new IFC deal, so "A Christmas Tale" (BluRay/DVD) is coming out in both formats at the same time. The thing about "Shelter" is that it was shot on grainy, crappy 16mm, so the BluRay can only look so good. Don't expect a miracle from the transfer. I haven't seen "A Christmas Tale," but it's starting to show up on so many best-of-the-decade lists that I'm sure I'll pick it up this weekend to catch up.  Frank Darabont's "The Green Mile" (BluRay) comes to high definition this week, and I'm willing to bet it's a great set.  Frank was the one who finally talked me into buying a BluRay player, and he's a huge fan of the format.  He takes care of his movies when they're released on home video, paying real attention to everything on the disc, so if you're a fan, pick it up.  Sony's catalog title of the week is "The Mask Of Zorro," (BluRay) and I forgot just how fun this film is.  Great transfer, too.  Banderas has rarely been more charismatic, and I still think these are the swordfights we should have seen in the new "Star Wars" films.  Tim McCanlies is the director of the small and lovely "Secondhand Lions," (BluRay) and it's worth seeing for the performances by Michael Caine and Robert Duvall as two old rascals who can't help but tell tall tales.  Finally, I am baffled by "Ben 10 Alien Swarm" (BluRay/DVD), but Toshi's manic about watching it, so I'm guessing this one will hit the player soon and I'll see if I can make any sense out of it.  All I know is it's a live-action take on an animated kid's superhero show, and it smells vaguely of Power Rangers to me.

ALSO ON DVD:

Seriously?  There's almost nothing coming out on DVD only this week.  If you love truly awful films, Neil Diamond's "The Jazz Singer: 30th Anniversary Edition" never fails to cheer me up.  It contains one of the worst performances ever given by a carbon-based life form, and shockingly, it's not by Diamond or Lucie Arnaz.  No... it's Lord Lawrence Olivier who pushes this one over the top.  If you can sit through him shredding a lapel while screaming "I HEFFFFFFF NOOOOOOOO SON!" in the craziest Yiddish accent ever without laughing, then you are a better person than I am.  I'm interested in the real-life WWII thriller "Flame & Citron" with Mads Mikkelson, and also in "Bellamy," the latest Claude Chabrol film, starring Gerard Depardieu, but I'm not sure either film qualifies as a must-buy.  Finally, there's "Better Off Ted, Season One," which I will check out based purely on the undying affection for the show demonstrated by our own Dan Fienberg. 

ALSO IN GAMES:

"Rogue Warrior" (PC/PS3/XBOX 360) looks like a Cold War FPS that could be fun, but otherwise?  It's a ghost town, baby.  Ain't nothin' going on.

NEXT WEEK:  "Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince," "Lost: The Complete Fifth Season," and Michael Mann's controversial "Public Enemies" all hit BluRay, and "The Saboteur" may be the last interesting game release of the year.  See you here next Tuesday to discuss these and more. 

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