Captain America: The First Avenger – A muscled-up Chris Evans takes on the role of the stars-and-stripes wearing hero in this surprisingly gritty take on one of the most anachronistic characters in comicdom. Director Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer) deftly makes a silly, ultra-patriotic saint seem relatable. Evans is a bit of a blank slate, which hurts him in much of his work but is an excellent fit for Cap. The Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy combo includes commentary from Johnston and his filmmaking team and deleted scenes.
The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes Vol. 3 and 4 – Available separately, the top-shelf Marvel animated series continues to impress, setting the table for next year's live-action movie. Geared midway between the more sophisticated comic book audience and Saturday morning cartoon kids, the series captures the silliness and storytelling potential in teaming up the likes of Hulk, Thor, Iron Man and Captain America. Both sets include six episodes but few extras.
The Conversation Blu-ray – Francis Ford Coppola's serpentine 1974 thriller rounds up Gene Hackman, John Cazale, Harrison Ford and Robert Duvall for a gotta-watch-it-three-times-to-really-understand-it web of intrigue, double-crosses and wiretapping. A rich specimen of courageous and intense 1970s filmmaking at its finest, the movie wears its sideburns well. Priceless screen tests, interviews with Coppola and the film's composer, a retrospective and commentaries tap into what makes the film great.
THE PHILMGUY'S DVD REVIEW: KEVIN SMITH WEEK
Dazed and Confused Blu-ray – Just as it did with the DVD release, Criterion blows the windows off the building with this spectacular tribute to Richard Linklater's 1993 film, which for my money is the most true-to-life look at late adolescence moviedom has to offer. The film introduced a slew of exciting new actors, including Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Parker Posey and Milla Jovovich, in a pot-filled tale about a group of friends, rivals and would-be lovers school gives way to summer in a Texas town. Spectacular dialogue and deliciously vibrant storytelling make the movie a true treasure. Criterion rolls up every special feauture from the sizable DVD release, such as a retrospective documentary, footage from a 10-year reunion event and commentary, and also includes a booklet with love-struck essays from Chuck Klosterman and others.
Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy Blu-ray – The velociraptors were clearly robbed by the Academy in their day, but at least now they have the chance to strut their stuff in HD. Included are the three films from the dinoriffic trilogy, including the impressive 1993 original and the two miserable sequels. The movies are most notable for their still-impressive special effects, which are detailed in an exhaustive slate of extras in the Blu-ray/digital copy combos. Most notable is the six-part retrospective documentary that treats the movies better than they deserve, rounding up castmembers and filmmakers to reflect on the creation of the popcorn-chomping blockbusters.
Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection – Watching the old comedy team do their thing, it's remarkable how many of today's best stand-up comics, sitcoms and movies took from the duo, which reigned supreme in the early part of the 20th century with witty, subversive writing and impeccable chemistry. The 10-disc set captures Laurel and Hardy at their creative peak, rounding up 58 shorts made mostly in the 1930s. Dick Van Dyke, Jerry Lewis and other famed comics pay tribute in the extras, which also include several commentaries.
Mardi Gras Spring Break – A getting-too-old-for-this Carmen Electra, who plays herself, is the only recognizable face in this low-grade but surprisingly amiable American Pie knockoff, in which high school buddies venture off to New Orleans for nights of embarrassment and debauchery. The actors are all in their late 20s and early 30s, combining with the dopey writing to add a surreal charm to this utterly insane but often funny lark. In a standout performance, Danneel Harris seems to be slyly mocking the material with bemused relish. There are no notable extras.
The People vs. George Lucas – Despite the confrontational nature of the title, the film is an even-handed analysis of what exactly it is that the vocal Star Wars fanboys are so bitter about. The chief offenses listed in this entertaining documentary are the existence of the prequel trilogy, in particular pretty much everything in the Phantom Menace, as well as Lucas's myriad changes to the originals in the DVD and Blu-ray editions. Director Alexandre O. Philippe lets seething fans vent their concerns, profiles Lucas's career and tries to empathize with the perspective of the relentless tinkerer. Far more than a case against the director, the movie sits back and gawks at the silly, pointless nature of geek rage. A few comedic shorts, including the music video of a song accusing Lucas of raping our childhood, are included.
Winnie the Pooh – The hourlong animated effort, which admirably avoids unnecessarily fluffing up the story to make it as long as most movies, is a charming trifle that recaptures the magic of Winnie, Piglet, Eeyore and the other residents of the Hundred Acre Wood. Although the movie itself can't live up to that heart-melting trailer set to Keane's Somewhere Only We Know, its unironic earnestness hits the right spots for parents of small children and fans of the A.A. Milne characters. The Blu-ray/DVD combo includes deleted scenes, an Eeyore game and a making-of featurette.
Monte Carlo – Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester and Katie Cassidy play mismatched friends — Meester's character is the stepsister of the other two — traveling abroad in this unintentional version of the Three Stooges. What starts off as a remake of the Lizzy McGuire Movie evolves into something like the Prince and the Pauper, with Gomez taking on an awful British accent to play her original character as well as the socialite she's impersonating. Stupidity abounds as the ladies recite awful dialogue, invent stupid problems for themselves and solve them and drag us through it all. At least the cast and crew got a nice vacation out of it. The Blu-ray/digital copy combo includes deleted scenes, a googly-eyed glance at the movie's male characters and behind-the-scenes nonsense.