New on DVD this week:
In order to appreciate The Avengers, you do have to get up to speed on the other movies: Iron Man, Thor and Captain America. This one begins where Thor left off, with the Greek god's half-brother Loki (Michael Sheen) assembling an alien army that will take over Earth, and Samuel L. Jackson decides to bring the world's best superpowers together to form a heroic alliance: Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Before these guys can work together as a team, there are plenty of ego-clashes, good for a few laughs, though Downey Jr. as Iron Man gets the best lines. Each superhero gets an equal slice of time, and there's a great variety of visual effects. A superb superhero film.
There are at least five versions of this DVD with varying special features including alternate openings, extended scenes, gag reels, a featurette about assembling the ultimate team, commentary by director Joss Whedon and more.
Damsels in Distress
Director Whit Stillman had huge hits with Metropolitan and Last Days of Disco in the 1990s and then disappeared. Damsels In Distress stars indie fave Greta Gerwig as the leader of a posse of pretty college girls whose mission is to date frat boys who are stupider than they are, as a kind of social outreach, and also to save suicidal students by giving them donuts and tap-dancing lessons. The film is very atmospheric, contains some sharp dialogue and a few funny scenes but it's deliberately vague, and the situations in which the girls find themselves becomes somewhat repetitive.
Deleted scenes, outtakes audio commentary with Stillman and cast, a Q&A session and a making-of featurette are included on the Blu-ray.
The Crimson Petal and the White
Romola Garai stars in this brooding, gothic tale of Victorian London squalor and a prostitute determined to rise above it. Sugar (Garai) is writing a bloody tell-all book about the men who climb her stairs. She finds a patron in the unassuming William Rackham (Chris O'Dowd, Kristen Wiig's love interest in Bridesmaids), a man burdened with a mentally ill wife and a mountain of debts. With encouragement from Sugar ("all turns to art in an artist's hands") William turns his business around, but she is sure to be his downfall. Adapted from Michel Faber's novel, the four-part BBC miniseries also stars an all-but-unrecognizable Gillian Anderson as a ruthless madam.
The Canada-U.K. co-production, now available from Acorn Media, also includes deleted scenes, character bios, and cast, crew and director interviews.