THIS WEEK’S THEATRICAL RELEASES:
“Captain America: The Winter Soldier”:
“Marvel’s The Avengers” is a tough act to follow, but “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” sure as heck gives that film a run for the money, upping the super-hero ante — here with a strong story line, some fine acting, fabulous special effects, and a whole lot of political intrigue. The sequel to 2011’s “Captain America: The First Avenger” finds Steve Rogers, a.k.a. Captain America, living in Washington, D.C., and trying to adjust to the modern world. But sooner than you can say “S.H.I.E.L.D.,” Rogers finds himself embroiled in a massive conspiracy spawned during the height of WWII and set into motion with the attempted assassination of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson). Enlisting the aide of Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Rogers uncovers a nefarious plot for world domination. There’s some nice touches here — a scene with a now aged Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell), witty banter between Romanoff and Rogers, the appearance of a new hero, The Falcon (Anthony Mackie), the appearance of a new enemy, the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan), and a savvy distrust of government and political functionaries. Kudos to directors Anthony and Joe Russo for their use of hand-held cameras and real cars in the chase scenes. Co-stars Sebastian Stan, Robert Redford, Frank Grillo, Toby Jones, Dominic Cooper, Emily VanCamp, Cobie Smulders, Garry Shandling, Maximiliano Hernandez, Jenny Agutter and Alan Dale. The copious extras include deleted and extended scenes, bloopers, a lengthy making-of featurette, and a nifty documentary on the notebook Rogers keeps to list the things he needs to catch up on (“I Love Lucy,” the moon landing, disco, etc). From Disney.
THIS WEEK’S HIGHLIGHTS:
The closer we get to Halloween, expect more and more scary movies to arrive on DVD and Blu-ray. This week’s offerings are impressive:
First up is the “Prom Night Special Edition” (1980), the celebrated “slasher” horror classic. Four Hamilton High seniors are hiding a terrible secret. What happened to Robin Hammond six years ago was a game that turned into a horrible tragedy, and someone saw what they did … someone waiting for gruesome revenge. Wearing a black hood and wielding an axe, a killer brutally slaughters the teenagers one by one at their high school prom. As the spotlight falls on the newly crowned prom king and queen, the psychopath will show everyone his new favorite game to play. Remastered and restored in 2K from the original 35mm camera negative with an all-new 5.1 surround mix. (Original 2.0 mono included). Directed by Paul Lynch and starring scream-queen Jamie Lee Curtis, Leslie Nielsen and Eddie Benton. On DVD and Blu-ray Disc. Extras include commentary with director Paul Lynch and screenwriter William Gray, “The Horrors of Hamilton High: The Making of “Prom Night” featurette, collection of additional scenes added for television broadcast, original theatrical trailer & television spots. The Blu-ray adds never-before-seen outtakes, motion still gallery. From Synapse Films/CAV Distributing.
Next up is another high school horror outing: “Graduation Day” (1981), starring Christopher George, Patch Mackenzie, Michael Pataki, Linnea Quigley, Vanna White and E.J. Peaker. After the death of a high school track star during a race, a mysterious, fencing-mask wearing killer begins murdering her friends and teachers. Who could the killer be? Her disgruntled coach? Her angry sister? Her violent boyfriend? As the bodies pile up, a twisted mystery unfolds, slowly revealing itself as it moves towards its bloody climax. Newly restored in 4K and presented in its original aspect ratio for the very first time. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Vinegar Syndrome/CAV Distributing … The folks at Scream Factory/Shout! Factory are bringing out a Blu-ray Collector’s Edition debut of “Pumpkinhead” (1988), a horror favorite with one of the scariest movie monsters of all time. When a group of teenagers inadvertently kill his only son, Ed Harley (Lance Henriksen) seeks the powers of a backwoods witch to bring the child back to life. But instead, she invokes “the pumpkinhead” — a monstrously clawed demon which, once reborn, answers only to Ed’s bloodlust. Extras include a new featurette “Remembering the Monster Kid: A Tribute to Stan Winston”; new interviews with the cast and crew; a “Pumpkinhead Unearthed” making of documentary featuring “Evolution of a Demon,” “The Cursed and the Damned,” “The Tortured Soul of Ed Harley,” “Constructing Vengeance” and “Razorback Holler”; and behind-the-scenes footage.
For a lighter horror touch there’s the Blu-ray debut of Mel Brooks’ great “Young Frankenstein: “ (1974), starring Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Cloris Leachman, Marty Feldman, Teri Garr and Madeline Kahn, in a 40th Anniversary edition. Extras include commentary by Mel Brooks; interviews with Marty Feldman, Gene Wilder and Cloris Leachman; “Inside the Lab: Secret Formulas to the Making of Young Frankenstein” featurette; “Blucher Button”; “It’s Alive: Creating a Monster Classic” featurette; “Making FrankenSense of Young Frankenstein” featurette; “Transylvanian Lullaby: The Music of John Norris” featurette; deleted scenes and outtakes; production photo galleries; more. From Fox.
Also due this week: “Hangmen Also Die” (1942), starring Brian Donlevy, Anna Lee and Walter Brennan. The great director Fritz Lang made his reputation in Germany with such landmarks as “Metropolis,” “M” and “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse,” but he left the country in 1933 as Nazism took hold. He continued his long and successful career in Hollywood, often returning to the themes of oppression and persecution, never more overtly than in this thriller, made in 1942, in which Lang decided to make a film that would face the Nazi terror head-on. Working with the famous playwright Bertolt Brecht and the Oscar-winning cinematographer James Wong Howe, Lang devised a fact-based thriller that would shock and stir audiences. In German-occupied Czechoslovakia, surgeon Franticek Svoboda (Brian Donlevy), a Czech patriot, succeeds in assassinating the (real-life) “Hangman of Europe,” the high-ranking Nazi and key Holocaust architect Reinhard Heydrich (Hans Heinrich von Twardowski). But Svoboda’s getaway car is discovered and therefore his planned safe house must reject him. When a woman he doesn’t know, Mascha (Anna Lee), deliberately misdirects German soldiers close to finding him, he seeks her home as a refuge. This turns out to be the home of her father, history professor Stephen Novotny (Walter Brennan), who the Nazis have banned from teaching. With the assassin remaining elusive, the Gestapo in Prague offer an incentive for him to turn himself in (or for others to reveal him): They will execute 400 citizens, including Professor Novotny, 40 at a time, until the killer is in custody. Restored in collaboration with the British Film Institute and Pinewood Studios; it features a one-minute sequence that was cut from the original domestic release. On DVD, Blu-ray Disc from the Cohen Film Collection.