Only two major theatrical releases are hitting home video this week. One of them updates the adventures of a classic children’s storybook character while the other paves the way for Marvel Comics’ upcoming “Avengers” movie.
Captain America: The First Avenger
3 stars (out of four)
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D
It’s been a great year for Marvel, as three of the comic book company’s superhero titles have made their way to the big screen, each garnering critical praise and respectable box office numbers. “Thor” got things started in early May, followed closely by “X-Men: First Class.”
“Captain America: The First Avenger” hit theaters most recently, and it maintained the high quality set by the earlier films. One part World War II drama and one part science-fiction adventure, the movie focuses on Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), an undersized young man whose repeated attempts to join the military are thwarted by health issues. Desperate to do his part for his country, Rogers makes a last ditch effort to join the Army, and a sympathetic scientist named Abraham Erskine (Stanley Tucci) gives him a shot.
Erskine sees Rogers as the perfect candidate for a super soldier serum he developed, and it’s not long before the once sickly lad possesses enormous strength and agility. The bulk of the film is set during the 1940s, and it follows Rogers’ exploits as he slowly transitions from naïve patriot to genuine war hero. Of course, every superhero film needs a first-class villain, and “Captain America” gets Johann Schmidt (Hugo Weaving), a power-obsessed Nazi officer with a plan for world domination.
Evans is solid as Rogers, and he’s surrounded by a talented supporting cast that includes Tommy Lee Jones, Toby Jones, Sebastian Stan and Hayley Atwell. But “Captain America” isn’t really an actor’s showcase. Rather, director Joe Johnston (“The Rocketeer,” “October Sky”) has designed it as a pure action film that does a respectable job introducing its central character, then propels viewers through a lightweight-but-enjoyable adventure.
The movie is available as part of multiple home video releases, including a Blu-ray 3D set that also includes standard Blu-ray, DVD and digital copies of the feature. Extras vary.
Winnie the Pooh
Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download
Writer A.A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” stories have delighted children since the mid-1920s, when he first released them in book form. Because the tales center on talking stuffed animals, they translate nicely into cartoons, and viewers have seen many screen adaptations. Disney’s latest take on Milne’s work ignores previous incarnations, so viewers get a fresh look at the stuffed bear and his spirited friends.
The movie starts with directors Stephen J. Anderson and Don Hall transporting their audience into the pages of a storybook where Pooh and company come to life. Although the film offers a new take on Milne’s characters, it has a retro feel. The animation has the straightforward, hand-drawn look of decades past, but the visuals don’t seem dated. Despite constant advances in computer animation, quality hand-drawn images have appeal, and they seem particularly fitting when used with a classic character like Pooh.
The storytelling, pulled directly from Milne’s books, is also vintage. The early plotting focuses on Eeyore, the perpetually depressed donkey. While searching for honey, Pooh notices that his pal has lost his tail, so he mounts a search.
Not long after, Pooh discovers that his owner, Christopher Robin, has disappeared. When Owl – without evidence – speculates that Christopher was kidnapped by a monster known as the Backson, Pooh and company hatch a rescue plan.
This new take on Pooh is pleasantly presented and wholesome, meaning it should play well to the young children that make up its target audience. Unfortunately, this selling point may also be the film’s biggest weakness. While it’s refreshing to see a children’s movie free from double entendre and gags intended for adults, Pooh is so traditional and saccharine that older viewers may find it difficult to embrace.
Home video extras include two cartoon shorts and a collection of deleted scenes.
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
“Attack the Block”: British science-fiction film about members of a London street gang forced to defend themselves against an alien invasion. Nick Frost, Jodie Whittaker, John Boyega and Luke Treadaway star. Written and directed by Joe Cornish.
“Shaolin”: Foreign drama set in China during the early 1900s. When a powerful warlord gets increasingly ruthless, the normally peaceful monks of the Shaolin Temple are forced to defend their grounds and the citizens who have taken refuge with them. Andy Lau, Nicholas Tse and Jackie Chan star. Directed by Benny Chan. Presented in Mandarin and Cantonese with English subtitles.
“The People Vs. George Lucas”: Documentary film that considers the love/hate relationship that some “Star Wars” and “Indiana Jones” fans have with the creator of those franchises. Written and directed by Alexandre O. Philippe.
“Jurassic Park” The Ultimate Trilogy: All three “Jurassic Park” films are being released on Blu-ray for the first time. Each movie has been digitally restored, and the collection comes with hours of bonus features, including a new, six-part documentary. For those who haven’t made the transition to Blu-ray, a DVD-only set is also hitting stores.
“Island of Lost Souls”: Just in time for Halloween, the Criterion Collection is releasing a digitally restored version of director Erle C. Kenton’s 1932 take on the H.G. Wells novel “The Island of Dr. Moreau.” Charles Laughton stars as a scientist conducting horrifying genetic experiments on creatures in the South Seas, and Richard Arlen plays the shipwrecked man who discovers what’s happening. Bela Lugosi also stars.
“Identification of a Woman”: Newly restored release of writer-director Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1982 film about an Italian director who has affairs with two women while attempting to define his next movie project. Tomas Milian, Daniela Silverio and Christine Boisson star. Presented in Italian with English subtitles.
“Tom & Jerry” – Golden Collection Volume One: Thirty-seven remastered, animated shorts from one of the world’s most famous cat-and-mouse duos. Among the 37 cartoons are four that won Academy Awards and another three that were nominated.
“Robot Chicken” – Season Five: Twenty episodes from the animated, stop-motion comedy series created by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich. This collection is particularly noteworthy because it includes nine episodes that are yet to air on television.
“Pawn Stars” – Volume Three: Sixteen episodes of the HISTORY series about the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop located on the outskirts of Las Vegas.
Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.