Notable new releases and events
The symbol indicates titles of unusual interest, quality, and/or critical acclaim.
Arriving Tuesday for the Xbox 360, the highly anticipated Gears of War: Judgment serves as a prequel to the original trilogy (average Metascore: 92.7) in Microsoft's third-person shooter series. The new game adds Bulletstorm co-developers People Can Fly and writer Tom Bissell (Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter) to the development team, and they've crafted a campaign that takes place six years prior to the events of the previous games. (There's co-op and competitive multiplayer as well.) Reviews should start coming in after 9p tonight.
Out Monday, Lego City: Undercover is the first major release for Nintendo's Wii U console this year. The open-world game is basically a Lego-ized, kid-friendly take on the Grand Theft Auto formula, albeit with the protagonist being a law enforcement officer rather than a criminal. (Unsurprisingly, it's also much less violent than Rockstar's series.) Critics seem to be enjoying the game's personality and humor, even if it's not quite a game-changer. Note that if you order the digital download, you'll need an external hard drive.
Speaking of Nintendo, 3DS owners can pick up Luigi's Mansion Dark Moon on Sunday. A direct sequel to the 2001 GameCube adventure Luigi's Mansion 78, Dark Moon revisits the earlier game's ghost-sucking vacuum cleaner gameplay as poor Luigi is sent to explore several new haunted houses.
Also out this week (on Tuesday) is The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct (for 360 , PS3, PC, and Wii U). Not to be confused with Telltale's award-winning Walking Dead series, this game is a first-person shooter based on the TV show, with players taking on the role of Daryl Dixon. And owners of Assassin's Creed III can pick up The Betrayal (360, PS3, PC), the second of three planned DLC packs in which you must overthrow the tyrannical King George Washington (it's an alternate reality, you see).
Finally, iOS gamers should seek out the just-released Ridiculous Fishing - A Tale of Redemption. With a dozen glowing reviews in so far, the addictive indie game is the highest-scoring iPhone/iPad title so far this year.
Early reviews are stellar for the new Sundance Channel miniseries Top of the Lake, which begins with back-to-back episodes Monday at 9p and runs subsequent Mondays at 10p before wrapping up with a two-hour finale on April 15th at 9p. The seven-hour crime drama comes from Oscar-nominated director Jane Campion (The Piano), and is set in a remote (but beautiful) New Zealand mountain community where a pregnant 12-year-old goes missing after last being spotted standing in a frozen lake. Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss stars as the inexperienced cop who investigates the disappearance, while Holly Hunter (Campion's star in The Piano) and Peter Mullan (War Horse) are among the residents of the town.
Critics also have mostly good things to say about Bates Motel, a new weekly drama series launching Monday at 10p on A&E. Lost's Carlton Cuse and Friday Night Lights' Kerry Ehrin serve as producers for this prequel to the Hitchcock thriller Psycho that centers on the formative years of Norman Bates, played here by Freddie Highmore (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory). Vera Farmiga (Up in the Air) stars as Norman's mother Norma, while Nestor Carbonell (Lost), Mike Vogel (Pan Am), and Max Thieriot (An American Girl) also star.
Sunday night brings the HBO original movie Phil Spector (9p), the cable network's latest attempt to hook Emmy voters. Focusing on the murder trial of legendary music producer Phil Spector, who is played here by Al Pacino with help from several wacky wigs, the film also stars Helen Mirren as Spector's defense attorney, Linda Kenney Baden, and the supporting cast includes Jeffrey Tambor and Chiwetel Ejiofor. David Mamet (whose Glengarry Glen Ross provided Pacino with one of his Oscar nominations) writes and directs, with Barry Levinson serving as producer. Critics haven't weighed in yet, but last week the murder victim's family and Spector's ex wife denounced the film.
Finally, a new season of Dancing with the Stars debuts Monday night (8p, ABC) with contestants including Andy Dick, Dorothy Hamill, D.L Hughley, Kellie Pickler, and Lisa Vanderpump.
Actor and semi-permanent NBC talk show guest Justin Timberlake restarts his music career on Tuesday with The 20/20 Experience, his first album in seven years. Much of the production is again handled by Timbaland, and Jay-Z guests on the lead single "Suit & Tie." There are some complaints about the lyrics, but overall advance reviews have plenty of praise for the sound of the new album.
Also out this week is The Invisible Way, the latest from slowcore trio Low, produced by Wilco's Jeff Tweedy. Guitar hero Marnie Stern is receiving fairly strong reviews for her cheekily titled new album The Chronicles of Marnia. And Britpop band Suede return with Bloodsports, their first album in 11 years; that LP is produced by Ed Buller, who also worked with Suede on their first three albums. Also making a comeback this week are Hershey, Pennsylvania alternative rockers The Ocean Blue, whose Ultramarine is their first LP since 1999.
The first of two terrorists-attack-the-White House movies due this year, Friday's Olympus Has Fallen stars Gerard Butler as the only Secret Service agent who can save the president (Aaron Eckhart) from capture after an attack by North Korean agents. Antoine Fuqua's first film in three years (after several aborted projects) also stars Morgan Freeman, Dylan McDermott, and Angela Bassett.
On the comedy front, Admission boasts two likeable stars in Tina Fey and Paul Rudd (and a strong supporting cast that includes Lily Tomlin, Michael Sheen, Wallace Shawn, and Gloria Reuben) but gives them only so-so material to work with. Based on Jean Hanff Korelitz's novel about a Princeton admissions officer who encounters a gifted young student who may be tied to her past, the film comes from director Paul Weitz, whose last positively reviewed film was almost a decade ago.
The latest from DreamWorks Animation, Friday's The Croods tells the story of a prehistoric family discovering a new world beyond their cave. Voices come from Nicolas Cage, Catherine Keener, Ryan Reynolds, and Emma Stone. ... And in limited release, The Sapphires is a crowd-pleasing Aussie comedy about an unlikely group of four Aboriginal women who become soul singers in the '60s.
Tuesday's key DVD/Blu-ray releases include 2012's best-reviewed film Zero Dark Thirty and 2012's best-reviewed film to feature Hobbits, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. Check our DVD Release Calendar for a full list of this week's new releases.
Closing the book on last week
|Most Popular Title on Metacritic|
|SimCity (PC) 64||Week of 3/10-3/16|
|Weekend Box Office Champion (Estimated, U.S. only; source: Boxofficemojo.com)|
|Oz: The Great and Powerful 45||$42.2 million; 2nd week at #1|
|#1 Album on Billboard 200 (Source: Billboard.com/Nielsen SoundScan)|
|Luke Bryan: Spring Break... Here To Party||1st week at #1|
|Top-Rated Primetime Broadcast Show (Source: Nielsen)|
|NCIS (CBS)||20.8 million viewers; week of 3/4-3/10|