This week: Chris Evans gets patriotic by getting even more ripped, dinosaurs in high definition and a prequel to a bloody horror franchise.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Director Joe Johnston's fast-paced origin story about the World War II-era superhero was a critical and financial success and makes us eager to see Cap team up with Iron Man, Hulk and Thor next year in The Avengers. Leading man Chris Evans—who has always been built like a superhero and has played one before in two Fantastic Four movies as Human Torch—is introduced in Captain America as scrawny Steve Rogers thanks to some digital downsizing. After being turned down multiple times by the army to enlist, the asthmatic 90-pound Rogers is chosen to receive a super-soldier serum that instantly transforms him into a hunk of hurt for the Nazis.
Steve gets behind enemy lines in Europe with the assistance of British agent Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and frees many captured American soldiers. It is there that he meets the fearsome Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), a Nazi officer named Johann Schmidt who broke away from serving as Hitler's head of advanced weaponry to serve his own needs for world domination as commander of the terrorist organization HYDRA. Red Skull has taken the same strength-enhancing serum as Cap, so the two are equally matched as Cap tries to stop the crimson-headed Nazi madman from harnessing the power of a mystical tesseract and destroying key American cities.
Captain America is available on Blu-ray 3D at home for those who want to replicate the theatrical experience. No matter what dimension you watch it in, Captain America is one of the more satisfying superhero movies to soar onto screens lately. Not only is Evans perfectly cast as Cap, but Matrix villain Weaving gets to be deliciously evil again as Red Skull, Atwell is tough but sweet as the other half of the blossoming Cap romance that is literally put on ice for seven decades, and Tommy Lee Jones steals scenes as wisecracking, crusty Col. Chester Phillips. Be sure to watch after the credits for a peek at Cap getting recruited to be part of the Avengers.
Best extras: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain a commentary track, "Outfitting a Hero" and "The Assembly Begins." The Blu-ray also adds four more making-of featurettes, "Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer" and deleted scenes. The movie is also available on iTunes and will debut on On Demand soon.
Verdict: Buy Me
Jurassic Park: Ultimate Trilogy
From the extended editions of The Lord of the Rings trilogy to the entire Star Wars saga, 2011 is the year that Blu-ray broke into the mainstream with the release of Hollywood's blockbuster leviathans on the high-definition format. Now Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park and The Lost World: Jurassic Park as well as Joe Johnston's Jurassic Park III are bundled together for their Blu-ray debuts in Jurassic Park: Ultimate Trilogy.
It might have seemed like it took eons for all three Jurassic Park movies to make the digital evolution to Blu-ray, but it was worth the wait, as the trilogy about genetically engineered dinosaurs running amok has been flawlessly restored and remastered in high definition. In addition, the immersive sound effects and classic score by composer John Williams can now be heard in pristine 7.1 surround sound for the first time. Big movies on big-screen TVs need the big Blu-ray treatment, and this trilogy is dino-mite in high definition.
Best extras: Many of the archival featurettes from the previous DVD releases have been ported over to this set, but the Brontosaurus-sized attraction is the inclusion of two hours of all-new bonus features, including a comprehensive six-part documentary featuring interviews with Spielberg and Johnston, plus cast and crew. In addition, the Ultimate Trilogy is available as a gift set packaged with a stature of a T. rex breaking through the gates of Jurassic Park.
Verdict: Buy Me
Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings
This fourth entry in the slasher series Wrong Turn about a trio of inbred West Virginia siblings who get all Deliverance on trespassers is actually a prequel to the previous three films. We learn that the charmingly named One-Eye, Saw-Tooth and Three Finger were locked in a cruel institution as children until they revolted, tore apart the staff and became the cannibalistic lil' darlings with a high tolerance for pain that they are today. Years later, a group of snowmobiling college students decides to camp out at the long-abandoned institution during a blizzard and soon discovers that they are all on the lunch menu.
We all fear maniacal inbred country hillbillies, which is why movies like this, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the like still get under the skin. The no-name actors in this prequel are expectedly awful and have rather unnatural reactions to the horrors taking place (one Asian-American actress huffs and puffs about barricading herself in a room from the three psychos like she's a child being asked to eat Brussels sprouts), but the gruesome scenes of the brothers making college-student stew will satisfy gorehounds looking for some bloody fun this Halloween season.
Best extras: Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain an audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes and a music video. Wrong Turn 4: Bloody Beginnings is also available today on On Demand.
Verdict: Rent Me
Also New This Week: Attack the Block, Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection, The Conversation (BD), Winnie the Pooh, Shaolin, A Little Help, A Serbian Film, Faces in the Crowd, The People vs. George Lucas, Robot Chicken: Season Five, Father of Invention and Zombie (BD)