For the week beginning on September 25th, comic-book movies are the name of the game. Case in point: this Tuesday sees the Blu-ray release of box-office smash The Avengers, the adaptation of the beloved Marvel Comics property. The Avengers faced an uphill battle in the eyes of many comic-book fans; it had to satisfy the aims and objectives established in Thor, The Incredible Hulk, Captain America: The First Avenger, and two Iron Man entries while still working as a standalone picture. Propelled by writer/director Joss Whedon's lively, funny script and wonderful chemistry between the central heroes, The Avengers offers about as perfect a summer blockbuster as one could hope for - as Whedon recently said of his work, "I don't think it's a perfect movie. I don't even think it's a great movie. I think it's a great time."
In his Blu-ray review, Jeffrey Kauffman echoes that sentiment, how "The Avengers is a breathless and mostly elegantly structured entertainment that manages to let each of the superheroes (and their merely mortal helpers) have their moment in the sun while at the same time providing some fantastic set pieces...Is this a perfect superhero film? Probably not. That same final battle might last a little too long and I for one just couldn't warm to Ruffalo as Banner...But these are very minor quibbles in what has to be one of the most rousing action films of at least the past decade. Whedon expresses some surprise (consternation, really) that he was handed this property without having a large film oeuvre already under his belt, but The Avengers proves that he was an incredibly smart choice to man an incredibly entertaining film."
With The Avengers covering the Marvel front, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 takes care of the DC Comics branch. The animated feature represents a huge landmark for Warner Home Entertainment DC Animated department: it is the studio's first screen interpretation of Frank Miller's The Dark Knight Returns, which has remained one of the most influential graphic novels ever written since its debut in 1986. As a cartoon adventure, Batman: The Dark Knight Returns mostly works - it's exciting and fast-paced and pleasantly reminiscent of Batman: The Animated Series. As a representation of Miller's dark Batman tale, the film is less successful. It's a little too soft, a little too clean - the movie sports a PG-13 rating - and that sanitization robs Batman: The Dark Knight Returns of the satirical and visceral impact it had in print form. Still, it's an entertaining enough romp, and one hopes that Part Two might address some of the issues present in this first half.
Kenneth Brown's Blu-ray review sums up these concerns, that "Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, Part 1 isn't quite all that it could be and, in a few seemingly small but arguably fundamental ways, alters Frank Miller's original four-issue comic more than is necessary. But there's a lot to love in the first part of Warner Premiere's Dark Knight Returns adaptation and even more to suggest Part 2 will be even better. Diehard fans of the 1986 limited series will declare Part 1 a bittersweet success, casual fans will find the movie more than satisfactory, and newcomers will enjoy it far more than the other two camps."
Though it isn't explicitly based on a comic-book, the new Bond 50 box set certainly provides the same kind of over-the-top thrills inherent in both The Avengers and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. The package bundles together every MGM James Bond released between 1962 and 2008 - minus the 1967 spoof Casino Royale - and it gives fans a great opportunity to compare the pros and cons of the past half-century's different 007s. Whether you prefer Sean Connery's wit, Roger Moore's dignity, or Daniel Craig's cool savagery (and that's not to neglect the qualities of Bonds Lazenby, Dalton, and Brosnan), Bond 50 has a lot to offer. The Blu-ray package is a veritable survey of action-movie filmmaking styles, and for that fact alone, it's a worthwhile endeavor.
Finally, we end the week with The Criterion Collection's twisty mind-bender The Game. The Game finds Academy Award-nominated director David Fincher out of prestige filmmaking mode (think The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or The Social Network) and trafficking in the kind of lurid, mildly disreputable thrills that made his Se7en and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo so much fun; it's A Christmas Carol meets The Trial, as a miserable, greedy millionaire (Michael Douglas) finds his carefully manicured life uprooted by a shadowy organization that is either the most elaborate practical joke ever conceived or a dangerous criminal network intent on destroying everything he holds dear. The Game is fluff, but it's good fluff, with Fincher's seductive direction and Douglas' captivatingly unsympathetic lead performance giving the picture more layers than it might otherwise have.
In his Blu-ray review, Svet Atanasov praises the film, calling it "a pure, old-fashioned action thriller, the type Hollywood is no longer interested in making...Douglas carries the entire film on his shoulders. The range of different emotions he conveys is remarkable. Early on his character is an arrogant man who sees life as a series of deals that have to be made; he always has to be on top, regardless of the situation or circumstances, and there can be absolutely no compromises. But when he is suddenly placed in an environment where he is no longer in charge, he undergoes a remarkable character transformation. His view of the world and the people around him changes dramatically."
The Target exclusive Blu-ray 3D combo pack of Marvel's The Avengers will be mine!!!! I'm as giddy as a little schoolboy right now!!! I will definitely be at my local Target store at 8:00 am sharp tomorrow!!!!