DVD reviews: 'The Avengers,' 'Damsels in Distress'
“The Avengers” (2012, PG-13, 143 min., $29.99). If there's a film that's dominated 2012 — at the box office and with critics — it's been “The Avengers,” the culmination of a collection of superhero movies that have pulled in big paydays over the past few years. “The Avengers,” directed by Joss Whedon, brings together Marvel's finest in Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the Incredible Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Captain America (Chris Evans), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson). They're teaming up to take on Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and a clan of evil that's bent on taking over Earth. That's the major plot point in an action-packed pic that so beautifully blends larger-than-life characters and their egos against a force that has the potential to destroy Earth. It culminates in an epic battle that has each one of the Avengers playing a part in saving the world. Despite weighing in at a heavy 143 minutes, “The Avengers” has a nice pace. For popcorn entertainment, one can't get much better than Whedon's first trip with the Marvel crew. The film is available in three different packages, and the two combo packs are the way to go. Both carry lots of extras, including a cool featurette that explores bringing together all the superheroes. A couple more featurettes, deleted scenes, a gag reel and commentary also are in the mix. A scaled-down standard DVD will be available with little in the way of special features. 3 Stars.
“Damsels in Distress” (2011, PG-13, 99 min., $30.99). Filmmaker Whit Stillman, responsible for popular indie titles like 1990's “Metropolis” or 1998's “The Last Days of Disco,” returned to the film biz last year with a bright romantic comedy named “Damsels in Distress.” The flick follows a small group of females aimed at improving select students at their university. Violet (Greta Gerwig) is the leader of the group, and she welcomes in transfer Lily (Analeigh Tipton). The girls (Carrie MacLemore and Megalyn Echikunwoke also star) look to help depressed students, by giving them doughnuts, hygiene tips and select dance numbers. Everything's going well for the ladies until a series of romantic entanglements threatens to split up the gang. “Damsels in Distress” is not as sharp as some of Stillman's previous work, but it's still an enjoyable pic that employs wonderfully written dialogue and some welcome dry humor. It's what Stillman fans have come to expect, and that's quality. The picture also gets a lift from Gerwig and Tipton, who lead a cast of young and talented actors. Special features are the same on Blu-ray and standard DVD packages, and they're pretty good, too. The lone featurette gives viewers a look behind the scenes. Interviews with the cast and crew, outtakes and deleted scenes are also available. 3 Stars.
“The Samaritan” (2012, R, 90 min., $24.98). Samuel L. Jackson holds the lead role in a crime drama about a con man trying to go straight after being released from prison. Unfortunately, the man slides back into his old ways, getting involved in a plan that will leave redemption out of the picture.
“Klown” (2012, R, 89 min., $27.97). Already slated for an American remake, this Danish comedy about two wildly inappropriate friends causing havoc in the countryside on a misguided adventure is bound to make most viewers blush. The film stars comedians Frank Hvam and Caspar Christensen.
“Delicacy” (2011, PG-13, 108 min., $24.98). Writer David Foenkinos adapted his own bestselling novel of the same name for this French romantic comedy. The motion picture star Audrey Tautou as Nathalie, a woman dealing with the death of her beloved husband and falling back in love with an unexpected fellow.
“The Tall Man” (2012, R, 106 min., $29.97). Jessica Biel stars in this horror film from Pascal Laugier about a young nurse living in a small mining town where children are vanishing without a trace. The young woman writes off the scare as an urban legend until her son is snatched up in the middle of the night.
“Sleepless Night” (2011, NR, 103 min., $26.95). Tomer Sisley steps into the role of a cop named Vincent who's caught stealing a large amount of cocaine by a local mob boss. The gangster takes immediate action and kidnaps the police officer's son, and tells Vincent the boy will be executed unless the drugs aren't returned to their rightful owner.
“388 Arletta Avenue” (2011, NR, 87 min., $29.95). Randall Cole wrote and directed this found-footage horror film about a husband and wife (Nick Stahl and Mia Kirshner) being tormented by a voyeur who's looking in on their suburban home.
“Goodbye First Love” (2011, NR, 110 min., $24.98). Mia Hansen-Love wrote and directed this French romantic drama about a teen dealing with the end of her first romance. After suffering through the end of her relationship, the teen develops a strong sense of confidence in dealing with romances later in life.
“Asylum Blackout” (2011, NR, 85 min., $24.98). Three friends working at an asylum for the criminally insane are thrown into danger when a storm shuts down the security system. As a result, the prisoners are released and the friends face a desperate fight for survival.
“Just Around the Corner” (2011, NR, 97 min., $19.99). This remarkable documentary tells the tale of Bob Benjamin, a music promoter and manager who was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at an early age. Through his contacts in the music business, Benjamin put on shows to raise millions of dollars to fight the disease.
“Bait” (2012, R, 93 min., $24.98). A tsunami brings together a group of strangers in a submerged grocery store in this horror film from Kimble Rendall. As they try to escape the store, they soon realize there's a shark in their midst, and it's picking off customers, one by one. Xavier Samuel, Sharni Vinson and Alex Russell lead a young cast.
“Vampire Dog” (2012, NR, 91 min., $14.98). Former “Saturday Night Live” star Norm MacDonald has the voice of Fang in this story of friendship arriving just in time for Halloween. The film puts Fang with a new friend named Ace (Colin MacKechnie), as they try to escape the clutches of a scientist interested in Fang for all the wrong reasons.
“The Holy Roller” (2010, NR, 89 min., $27.97). A talented pastor moves to the big city and finds great success as a televangelist at a big church. When that church and the woman he loves are taken from Pastor Luke, he comes face to face with the greatest test of his faith.
“Detachment” (2011, NR, 97 min., $26.95). Tony Kaye returns to the director's chair for a drama about a teacher (Adrien Brody) who refuses to get too attached to his students. Instead, he moves around a lot and sticks with his substitute role. Also stars Bryan Cranston, James Caan, Christina Hendricks and Marcia Gay Harden.
“Conception” (2011, NR, 87 min., $26.95). Josh Stolberg wrote and directed this romantic comedy that follows nine very different couples on the night they conceive, proving that sex can sometimes be a difficult proposition. Julie Bowen, Connie Britton, Sarah Hyland, David Arquette, Jason Mantzoukas and Alan Tudyk fill out a talented cast.
TV ON DVD
“Gossip Girl: The Complete Fifth Season” (Blake Lively and Leighton Meester, five discs, 24 episodes, $59.98)
“CSI: The Twelfth Season” (Ted Danson and Elizabeth Shue, six discs, 22 episodes, $68.99)
“CSI: Miami, The Final Season” (David Caruso and Emily Procter, five discs, 19 episodes, $64.99)
“CSI: NY, The Eighth Season” (Gary Sinise and Sela Ward, five discs, 18 episodes, $64.99)
“Desperate Housewives: The Complete Eighth and Final Season” (Teri Hatcher and Eva Longoria, five discs, 23 episodes, $45.99)
“Key & Peele: Season One” (Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, one disc, eight episodes, $19.99)
“Touched By An Angel: The Sixth Season” (Roma Downey and Della Reese, seven discs, 26 episodes, $57.99)
“The Carol Burnett Show: Carol's Favorites” (Tim Conway and Vicki Lawrence, six discs, 16 episodes, $59.95)