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'The Haunting in Connecticut,' 'Grey Gardens,' 'Mad Men: Season Two,' 'The State: The Complete Series'

July 12, 2009|Noel Murray

The Haunting in Connecticut

Lionsgate, $29.95/$34.98; Blu-ray, $39.99

"The Haunting in Connecticut" features strong performances from a top-notch cast that includes Virginia Madsen, Elias Koteas, Martin Donovan and Kyle Gallner, but then director Peter Cornwell strands those actors in a hallucinatory haunted house plot that's so stock in its shock and so outlandish in its gory imagery that all potential plausibility dissipates. Still, though this "Haunting" doesn't linger, its DVD and Blu-ray editions are mighty impressive, adding deleted scenes, two commentary tracks and extensive featurettes that deal with the actual incident that inspired the film and its "fictionalized" version.

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Grey Gardens

HBO, $26.98

The Maysles brothers' 1975 documentary "Grey Gardens" is a distinctive and magnificent piece of work, following two dotty ex-socialites as they live out their days on a crumbling Hamptons estate. By all rights the doc should stand alone, but instead it's been turned into two plays, a Tony-winning Broadway musical and a made-for-HBO film starring Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore as "Big Edie" and "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale. None of these are as powerful as the original, but the HBO film -- accompanied by dryly promotional featurettes -- does offer a slightly different take on the material, contrasting the Beales' existence with the more glamorous life they once lived.

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Mad Men

Season Two

Lionsgate, $49.98; Blu-ray, $49.99

After one of the most stunning first seasons in TV history, AMC's Emmy-winning "Mad Men" maintained momentum in Season 2, delving deeper into the deceptions of philandering advertising genius Don Draper (magnificently played by Jon Hamm). "Mad Men: Season Two" goes to some grim psychological places, but the depiction of values in flux in '60s America remains precise, engaging and witty. Television doesn't get much better than this, especially when packaged on a set that includes smart featurettes that help explain the show's period references.

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The State

The Complete Series

MTV, $79.99

From December 1993 to July 1995, MTV turned over 13 hours of programming to the sketch comedy troupe the State, which produced a short, erratically scheduled series that's become a cult classic. Since the demise of "The State," the show's creative team -- including Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, David Wain, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Thomas Lennon and Ken Marino -- have gone on to write, direct and/or star in such TV shows and movies as "Reno 911!," "Stella," "Role Models" and "Wet Hot American Summer." "The State: The Complete Series" finally is available on DVD, complete with hours of outtakes, unaired sketches, interviews and commentary. Anyone interested in the origins of much of modern TV and movie comedy will want to give this a look.

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