RT on DVD & Blu-Ray: Captain America and Winnie the Pooh

Plus, a dramedy, a little-seen sci-fi hit, a Coppola classic, and a dino trilogy.

by Ryan Fujitani and Tim Ryan | Tuesday, Oct. 25 2011

This turned out to be one of those good weeks on home video, thanks to a few rather notable releases. Criterion is offering some good ones (minor Antonioni film Identification of a Woman, Island of Lost Souls, and a Blu-ray of Dazed and Confused), and giant monster classic Destroy All Monsters gets the Blu-ray treatment. A decent martial arts epic (Shaolin) hits shelves, as well as a Certified Fresh Finnish dark comedy based on an evil Santa Claus (Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale). Aside from those, however, the ones we'll be focusing on include one of Marvel's big summer hits, a reboot of a beloved storybook character, and a British sci-fi hit. Then we've got a quiet dramedy, a controversial shock flick, one of Coppola's classics on Blu-ray, and Spielberg's big dino trilogy. See below for the full list!

Captain America: The First Avenger

79%

Captain America put the finishing touches on a triumphant summer for Marvel that included hits Thor and X-Men: First Class and successfully bridged the gap to next summer's much anticipated Avengers movie. Directed by Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Jurassic Park III) and starring a surprisingly heroic Chris Evans in the title role, Captain America plays out the origin story of Steve Rogers, a scrawny but determined military recruit who signs up for a secret super-soldier program, only to be faced by the threat of the evil HYDRA organization and its leader Red Skull (Hugo Weaving), another recipient of the super-soldier treatment. Though many were initially a bit unsure what exactly to expect from the film, critics largely enjoyed it, calling it solidly old-fashioned blockbuster entertainment with pulpy action, a retro vibe, and some fine acting performances. Even if Captain America wasn't your favorite comic hero, chances are you'll have a pretty good time with this movie.

Winnie the Pooh

90%

Disney's return to the Hundred Acre Wood could also, in some sense, be considered a reintroduction of Winnie the Pooh to contemporary audiences. The new film takes its inspiration from three previously told stories written by original author A.A. Milne, one of which has already been made into film. Produced in traditional hand-drawn animation and featuring the talents of Jim Cummings, who has voiced Pooh since the late 1980s, and a cast of other accomplished voice actors, Winnie the Pooh finds the honey-loving bear on a dual mission to retrieve Eeyore's missing tail and to rescue Christopher Robin from a creature the gang has surmised is called a "Backson." Critics raved about Pooh, calling it an earnest throwback to the Pooh tales of old, filled with sweet nostalgia and gentle whimsy. Though it's aimed primarily at the young ones, those who grew up with Milne's classic tales should also get a little trip down memory lane out of the film, which makes it an enjoyable film for the whole family.

Attack the Block

90%

One of the films that made a lot of noise at this year's South by Southwest (SXSW) festival was an indie sci-fi gem from the UK called Attack the Block. Produced by some of the same folks (including director Edgar Wright) who brought audiences Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, Attack the Block centers on a gang of street kids living on a council estate (sort of the British equivalent to "the projects") who take it upon themselves to face off against an invading alien species that has crash landed in their hood. Impeccably stylish and full of wit, the film garnered quite a few accolades from critics who, quite simply, enjoyed the hell out of it and marked first-time director Joe Cornish as one to watch. If Attack the Block's themes and pedigree pique your interest, you'll more than likely find this a worthy pickup or rental.

A Serbian Film

46%

Another indie flick from abroad made some headlines this summer for very different reasons. Simply (and accurately) titled A Serbian Film, the movie explores themes of violence and sexual depravity in ways you may never have seen before on film (unless you've been really adventurous on the internet). The story follows a struggling male porn star named Milos who takes on one last gig, a supposed pornographic "art film," for a fat paycheck and the chance to break away from the industry completely. Once filming begins, however, Milos gradually realizes it's not quite what he thought, and his life devolves into a hellish and sadistic nightmare for him and his family. A Serbian Film generated much controversy, due to its disturbingly graphic depiction of rape, pedophilia, and necrophilia, earning nationwide bans in countries like Spain, Germany, and Australia, and most critics were hard-pressed to disagree. We're including it here as a curiosity, primarily because of the media attention it received, but in all honesty, we don't quite know how we'd feel if we recommended it to anyone outright. Take your chances, but beware; this is most certainly not for the faint of heart.

A Little Help

41%

It's not uncommon for stars of popular television shows to move on to feature films, and the US version of The Office has certainly aided in elevating the careers of several of its actors. After starring on the sitcom as the clever, lovable Pam Beesly, Jenna Fischer began landing parts in high profile comedies, and with A Little Help, she emerges in her first major starring role. Fischer is somewhat neurotic dental hygienist Laura Pehlke, mother to Dennis (Daniel Yelsky) and wife to philandering Bob (Chris O'Donnell). When Bob suddenly dies, Laura is faced with the task of putting her life back together, both for her and her son. Though that synopsis may not clearly indicate it, A Little Help is a dramedy that focuses on its characters' quirky coping methods, and though Fischer makes the best of it that she can, critics mostly felt the film was a bit uneven, with a subpar script and some puzzling choices made for its likable lead. With a 45% on the Tomatometer, there's no guarantee this one will be fully satisfying, unless, maybe, you're a hardcore fan of Jenna Fischer.

The Conversation - Blu-Ray

98%

Sandwiched between The Godfather and The Godfather, Part Two, The Conversation lacks the ambitious sweep of Francis Ford Coppola's mob epic, but it's a masterpiece all the same. Eerie, paranoid, and remarkably prescient, The Conversation is the story of Harry Caul (Gene Hackman), a reclusive sound surveillance expert who's been hired to eavesdrop on a young couple. Using state-of-the-art recording technology, he's able to piece together a conversation that seems to have chilling implications -- though Harry claims to care nothing about the consequences of his work. A creepy, haunting film, The Conversation now appears on Blu-ray for the first time; special features include interviews and audio commentary from Coppola (as well as an audio track from sound editor Walter Murch, who was nominated for an Oscar), making-of docs, and the original screen tests for stars Harrison Ford and Cindy Williams.

Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy Blu-Ray

93%

Some of you, like this editor, may remember watching Steven Spielberg's epic fantasy Jurassic Park back in 1993 with a sense of sheer awe. Recalling some of Spielberg's most memorable work with both special effects and terror (e.g. Jaws), the film, based on the Michael Crichton novel of the same name, was a spectacle to behold and a pretty fine story to boot, generating the highest box office total in history (up to that point). The film spawned two sequels that, while admittedly of diminished quality, transported audiences back to the world of CGI dinosaurs and attempted to recreate that sense of wonder with new creatures and settings (San Diego, anyone?). For those who were big fans of the franchise, Universal is releasing all three films on Blu-ray in an Ultimate Trilogy set, which you can purchase either in disc-only format or in a collector's gift set, which includes a miniature T-Rex figure. There are a ton of great bonuses to be found, including a brand new six-part documentary titled "Return to Jurassic Park," so it's a worthwhile pickup for anyone who loved the movies but never got around to picking them up.

Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection

Here's a nice mess to get yourself into: an exhaustive collection of films from one of Hollywood's greatest comedy teams. The 10-disc Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection compiles nearly 60 features and shorts from this funniest of odd couples: the svelte, feckless Brit Stan Laurel, and the rotund, bossy American Oliver Hardy, masters of slapstick and witty banter. Unlike many of their brethren in silent comedy, Laurel and Hardy were able to successfully transition to the sound era; their 1933 film, The Music Box, about a pair of hapless piano deliverymen, picked up an Oscar for Best Short. Other favorites like Another Fine Mess, Sons of the Desert, and Way Out West are included here, along with tons of bonus material, like foreign language versions of the films (in which Laurel and Hardy recite the dialogue phonetically!), trailers, an interactive map of the movies' Los Angeles filming locations, testimonials from the likes of Dick Van Dyke and Jerry Lewis, and a commemorative book.

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