Captain America: The First Avenger
Coolest extra: Marvel One-Shot: A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Thor’s Hammer short film (DVD/Blu-ray)
Complex says: Most comic book stans lost their minds when the first trailer for The Avengers premiered two weeks ago; we, however, felt lukewarm. The reason: Joss Whedon’s superhero extravaganza, at least based on the preview, looks like every other action-heavy blockbuster adventure with tons of explosions and hammy dialogue. Save for the occasional goofy verbal exchanges, director Joe Johnston’s Captain America: The First Avenger is not that, at all. More of a throwback to old-school pulp entertainment, Marvel’s last pre-Avengers flick is starkly different from Iron Man and Thor aesthetically—it’s a welcome diversion from Marvel’s conventional approach.
Captain America is also unique in that the film’s leading man, Chris Evans, is a non-factor. Unlike Robert Downey, Jr. and Chris Hemsworth, Evans—playing a blander character, yes—disappears within Johnston’s lavish 1940s-era backdrops and vintage propaganda look. The film is no worse for it, however; the action sequences are crisp (note the dazzling shootout on a speeding train), Evans’ supporting cast members (particularly Hugo Weaving and Stanley Tucci) are clearly having a blast inhabiting larger-than-life roles, and the touches of cheeky humor consistently work (we’d forgotten how funny Tommy Lee Jones can be with the right material). Hopefully Whedon agrees.
Buy it now: Captain America: The First Avenger
Attack The Block
Coolest extra: Five separate behind-the-scenes featurettes (DVD/Blu-ray)
Complex says: The alien invasion sub-genre hasn’t been treated all that well in the last year or so; look no further than the one-two combination of shit that was Skyline and Battle: Los Angeles. So hearing someone recommend a flick involving uninvited extraterrestrials is, understandably, the ear-sensitive equivalent to ingesting sleeping pills—we get it. But take our word for it: If you slept on writer-director Joe Cornish’s Attack The Block when it was buried in limited theaters this past summer, you missed out on one of the year’s wildest and most entertaining surprises.
Set in the projects of England, Attack The Block roars with the energetic ferocity of early John Carpenter (think Assault On Precinct 13), following a crew of young wannabe thugs who take it upon themselves to defend their hood from shadowy, fast-moving aliens with glowing teeth. First-time filmmaker Cornish wisely depicts the dangerous set-up with honesty; kids die, graphically, and characters who seem reprehensible are slowly revealed to have multiple layers and complexities. And then there’s wicked violence, carried out by the coolest-looking aliens since Cloverfield’s monster. Independent science fiction doesn’t get much better than this.
Buy it now: Attack The Block
Coolest extra: “Sundance speech, with introduction by Kevin Smith” featurette (DVD/Blu-ray)
Complex says: For years, we’d been reading about comedy veteran Kevin Smith’s desire to make a little horror film called Red State, and, for years, we were intrigued. The premise alone was worth the excitement: a dark movie about religious extremism. Sign us up for that, and maybe, one day, a filmmaker will see the concept through; Red State, on the other hand, isn’t that. Crowded with more ideas than he was ready to handle, Smith’s “horror” film is a scatterbrained compendium of Quentin Tarantino influences, overdone action, and Smith’s own juvenile humor. Had he picked one of those components and expanded upon it, the Clerks director’s genre-hopping efforts might have inspired more applause than shrugs.
What’s most frustrating, though, is that Red State’s best moments are really good. When Smith grounds the movie in its God-fearing trappings, Michael Parks’ work as the antagonistic preacher elevates the film with disturbing vigor—his extended monologue, capped off by a shocking bullet-to-the-head coda, is, no pun intended, a revelation. Why Smith then takes the focus away from Parks and has John Goodman lead us into a tedious Waco-like shoot-'em-up blowout is anyone’s guess. By the time Smith teases viewers with a potentially grandiose climax (one that Harold Camping would’ve appreciated) only to resort to his usual softball comedy ways, Red State’s minor goodwill is all but forgotten.
Buy it now: Red State
A Serbian Film (Unrated)
Coolest extra: Extended, even nastier cut of the film previously unseen in America, and for good reason (DVD/Blu-ray)
Complex says: Two words: baby rape. OK, eight more words: a woman violently bites a dude’s erect wiener. And that’s not even the worst of what sicko filmmaker Srdan Spasojevic’s deservedly controversial A Serbian Film has to offer. If either of those “money shots” fascinates you enough to actually want to see it play out, then you’re exactly the kind of guy we’d never want to court our daughters. But you’re also the perfect audience for this eye-gouging production, a shocker that pisses on morality and its own social themes with a bloody knob.
The “plot” follows an aging porn star, Milos (bravely played by Srdan Todorovic), who, in a desperate attempt to earn cash and provide for his wife and young son, agrees to star in a rich pervert’s porn flick without knowing anything about the film. And, frankly, such ignorance about the film is recommended before watching A Serbian Film, a vile piece of work that consistently one-ups itself until the depravity on screen becomes laughably revolting. Those who can’t resist the voyeuristic urges should consult our handy guide to the movie’s roughest moments. And question themselves for actively seeking A Serbian Film out as a welcome viewing experience.