New to DVD and Blu-ray: 'The Avengers' Finally Comes Home!

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Marvel Studios

New on DVD, Blu-ray and streaming this week, it's the year's biggest film, two separate political-comedy classics and a champagne cocktail of classy college-age angst. …

  • 'The Avengers'

    Blu-ray/DVD

    The biggest money-maker of the year by a mile -- and the film that finally formed all of Marvel Comics' cinematic efforts into one blockbuster like fingers forming a fist -- 'The Avengers,' even when it stumbles, is big-screen moviemaking with energy and verve thanks to writer-director Joss Whedon ('Buffy the Vampire Slayer,' 'Firefly'). The Blu-ray includes an astonishing number of special features -- including deleted scenes you wish weren't deleted -- and extensive making-of material as well as a speaker-rattling sound mix. The performances are surprisingly good, as well -- with Robert Downey Jr.'s Iron Man as our centerpoint character while people rave about Mark Ruffalo's Hulk, I'm also impressed by Chris Evans' work as Captain America, playing the star-spangled hero as Jimmy Stewart with post-human enhancements.

  • 'Dave'

    Blu-ray

    What may be the best political comedy of our generation, one with heart and principle and great goofy comedy as small-town nice-guy Dave (Kevin Kline), who's a dead ringer for the sitting President (Kline), secretly fills in for him for one night … that turns into a long-term gig when the President has a stroke. Can Dave turn from puppet to President in time to keep the man behind the plan (Frank Langella, in his greatest comedic performance) from taking advantage of both Dave and America? With a great cast -- Sigourney Weaver is the First Lady, Ving Rhames a dedicated Secret Service man, Ben Kingsley a decent-but-dull Vice President and some cameos too good to spoil -- 'Dave' somehow manages to combine retro Frank Capra-style charm with modern real-world politics for a film as funny as it is heartfelt…

  • 'The American President'

    Blu-ray

    The Aaron Sorkin project most likely to serve as wish-fulfillment for Liberals -- which, for Sorkin ('The West Wing,' 'Sports Night'), is saying a lot -- 'The American President' arrives on Blu-ray, not coincidentally in time for Election Season. Michael Douglas is the president, tragically widowed, trying to guide America and win the heart of Annette Bening. When the President's personal life leaves him open to political attacks by his enemies (including a superb Richard Dreyfuss), though, he has to prove he's a lover and a fighter to save his romance and the republic. With a great ensemble cast (including Martin Sheen, Michael J. Fox, David Paymer, Samantha Mathis and Anna Deavere Smith) and Rob Reiner smooth as silk in the director's chair, it's a perfect pre-election piece of wish fulfillment.

  • 'Damsels in Distress'

    Blu-ray/DVD

    Starring the goofy, giddy Greta Gerwig as a college-aged young woman hooked on positivity, volunteerism and standing apart from the ordinary, 'Damsels in Distress' marks the big-screen return of indie director Whit Stillman. It'd be one thing if 'Damsels' had just the arch wit and incisive eye of his earlier films 'Metropolitan' and 'The Last Days of Disco,' but in 'Damsels' -- aided by the remarkable Gerwig -- he also shows a sense of fun and sympathy that few of his peers can match. With musical numbers, screwball dialogue and a warm and winning central character, 'Damsels' is a fizzing champagne cocktail of a comedy that still has a smart, sober script.

Next Week: Tim Burton and Johnny Depp collaborate -- or conspire -- to revive 'Dark Shadows.' …
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