It's blast from the past week on the DVD front: Director Joe Johnston's 'Captain America: The First Avenger' takes us back to an earlier time (World War II, to be exact) in America, when ordinary men could become superheroes, fighting evil without any emotional baggage getting in the way; the 'Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy (Blu-ray)' takes us back 18 years to revisit Steven Spielberg's realistic dinosaur creations. Read on.
'Captain America: The First Avenger'
What It's About: Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), a 90-pound-weakling who just wants to fight the Germans during World War II but keeps getting rejected for military duty, volunteers for a top secret government research project that turns him into Captain America, a superhero dedicated to defending America's ideals. Captain America teams up with best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) and special agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) to wage war on the evil HYDRA organization, a Nazi offshoot bent on world domination that's headed up by the villainous Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). It's pure good vs. evil in an old-fashioned blockbuster sort of way.
It's Kinda Like: 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' meets 'Superman' (1978)
What We Say: 'Captain America' harks back to the comic book days of yore when our supereheroes were not riddled with angst and had one mission in mind: Rid the world of evildoers. Director Joe Johnston, no stranger to straight-ahead action ('The Rocketeer,' 'Jumanji,' 'Jurassic Park III'), runs with the pulpy, retro scenario without tongue in check or ironic flourishes and just gives us two hours of pure entertainment. It's not complicated or full of itself and definitely not silly like this year's two previous superhero outings. And, to top it off, the acting is solid: kudos to Evans, Atwell, Weaving and to Stanley Tucci and Tommy Lee Jones, who turn in delightful supporting roles.
• Extras: The Blu-ray disc includes commentary, deleted scenes, seven featurettes that explore the making of the movie and the comic book origins of 'Captain America.'
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'Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy (Blu-ray)'
What's the Deal? Steven Spielberg is a trailblazer: He ushered in the modern era of blockbusters with his smash hit 'Jaws' in 1975, redefined the action-adventure genre with 'Raiders of the Lost Ark' in 1981, and then legitimized computer-rendering of monsters in 'Jurassic Park' in 1993. The dinosaurs in 'Jurassic Park' were so realistic looking that they still hold up even when compared to the best that 21st century CGI has to offer. The acting was top notch and the story was intelligent and realistic, with plenty of thrilling jolts in just the right places. 'The Lost World: Jurassic Park,' also directed by Spielberg, and 'Jurassic Park III,' directed by Joe Johnston, carried the franchise further along in action and adventure. Fans have been waiting for Blu-ray versions of the trilogy, and Universal has obliged them with this release.
Special Features: The three-disc set has hours of bonus features ported over from the previous DVD release; there's also a new 'Return to Jurassic Park' six-part documentary that features new interviews with many of the cast members from all three films, the filmmakers and Spielberg.
Is It Collection Worthy? As would be expected with any Spielberg project, the image and sound here are of the highest quality; the soundtrack (especially the T-Rex footfalls in the first 'JP') will have your neighbors pounding on your walls for quiet. If you already have previous versions of all three films, the Blu-ray transfers are worth the extra outlay. If you don't yet have the films, what are you waiting for -- run out and buy the set.
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Other New October 25 Releases:
- 'Attack the Block': (2011) Funny, frightening action adventure movie that pits a teen street gang against an invasion of savage alien monsters. A London housing project is turned into a sci-fi battleground and the low-income apartment complex into a fortress under siege as a crazy mix of tough street kids become kick-ass heroes fighting off an invasion from outer space. Stars Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega, Luke Treadaway.
- 'Father of Invention': (2011) An eccentric inventor turned ego-driven infomercial guru lands in jail when one of his products -- the "Ab-Clicker" -- maims thousands of customers. Released 10 years later, he strives to redeem his name, rebuild his billion dollar empire and make amends with his estranged 22-year-old daughter. Stars Kevin Spacey, Camilla Belle, Heather Graham, Johnny Knoxville, John Stamos, Craig Robinson, Virginia Madsen.
- 'Fire of Conscience': (2011 -- Hong Kong) Another of action director Dante Lam's signature cops vs. gangsters thrill rides with heart-racing action sequences, distinct character development and stunning visual imagery. Investigator Captain Manfred is at a crossroads in life when he's assigned to investigate the death of a prostitute and finds himself working with aggressive Inspector Kee, who is determined to rise in the fast-paced world of Hong Kong law enforcement. Manfred is soon swept up into a shadowy world of dirty politics, graphic murders and dangerous secrets when his squad is betrayed by someone within the department. Stars Leon Lai, Richie Ren, Baoqiang Wang, Vivian Hsu, Kai Chi Liu, Michelle Ye. Watch the trailer:
- 'Harlow 100': Seven-disc box set from Warner Archive spotlights the Platinum Bombshell, Jean Harlow. A true trendsetter, the first "Platinum Blonde" provided the template for an archetype that stretches from Marilyn to Madonna to Gwen Stefani and beyond. Not only was she a big-screen sex symbol, but Harlow was a gifted comedienne and a talented dramatic actress. This special collection celebrates her centennial year with seven of her films, three newly remastered: 'Bombshell' (1933) (remastered), 'The Girl From Missouri' (1934) (remastered), 'Reckless' (1935) (remastered), 'Riffraff' (1935), 'Suzy' (1936), 'Personal Property' (1937) and 'Saratoga' (1937).
- 'Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection': Ten-disc set with 58 of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy's talking shorts and feature films, produced under legendary movie mogul Hal Roach from 1929 through 1940, available for the first time in the U.S., digitally remastered and digitally restored.
- 'A Little Help': (2010) A Long Island dental hygienist who relies on guilty pleasures -- cigarettes and beer -- to help her cope with an unruly lifestyle in order to take care of herself and her 12-year-old son, gets entangled in a series of bizarre lies when her unfaithful husband dies. Stars Jenna Fischer, Chris O'Donnell, Rob Benedict, Daniel Yelsky, Lesley Ann Warren, Ron Leibman, Brooke Smith.
- 'Mardi Gras: Spring Break': (2011) A group of college buddies sow their wild oats in New Orleans. Stars Danneel Ackles, Arielle Kebbel, Carmen Electra, Nicholas D'Agosto, Regina Hall, Josh Gad.
- 'The People vs. George Lucas': (2010) Documentary delves deep into the 'Star Wars' phenomena and George Lucas's cultural legacy, exploring the issues of filmmaking and fanaticism around one of the industry's most famous franchises.
- 'Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale': (2010--Finland) It's the eve of Christmas in northern Finland, and an American "archeological" dig has just unearthed the real Santa Claus. But this particular Santa isn't the one you want coming to town. When the local children begin mysteriously disappearing, young Pietari and his father Rauno, a reindeer hunter by trade, capture the mythological being -- but Santa's elves will stop at nothing to free their fearless leader from captivity. A new Christmas horror staple.
- 'Shaolin': (2011 -- Hong Kong) In this remake of Jet Li's 'Shaolin Temple' (1982), director Benny Chan tells an epic tale of sadistic warlords squaring off against noble monks in the early years of the Chinese republic. Stars Andy Lau, Nicolas Tse, Jackie Chan.
- 'Winnie the Pooh': (2011) Animated adventures of Winnie the Pooh and friends in the Hundred Acre Wood; inspired by three stories from A.A. Milne's books, rendered in Disney's classic, hand-drawn art style.
- 'Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings': (2011) The unrated bloody beginnings of Three Finger and his family of hillbilly cannibals.
Check out more October 25 DVD releases at OnVideo.