Steven Spielberg's 1993 modern-day dinosaur epic gets a Blu-ray upgrade (along with its sequels), leading these movies released on home video this week.
"Jurassic Park: Ultimate Trilogy" (Universal/Blu-ray, 1993-2001, PG-13, $79.98). Spielberg's adaptation of Michael Crichton's novel is still a stunning film, all the more so for its special effects rejiggered in high definition. (Of course, Blu-ray also enhances the film's flaws, and when that little girl screams a bit too often in upgraded surround sound, ouch!)
The well-known story has gazillionaire Richard Attenborough bringing scientists Sam Neill and Laura Dern, and mathematician Jeff Goldblum, among others (including two kids) to a remote island where he has cloned dinosaurs. And the computer-generated creatures remain breathtaking. Then, of course, Murphy's Law kicks in and chaos ensues. Thrills and chills and lots of funny wisecracks from Goldblum make this a terrific roller coaster ride.
The first sequel, "The Lost World: Jurassic Park," is also directed by Spielberg but it's far more mechanical. It also ups the gore quotient and delves into the "King Kong"/"Godzilla" formula, with Goldblum (still with the best lines), Julianne Moore and Vince Vaughn on hand. There are thrills but it's weak in the story department.
But the second sequel, titled simply "Jurassic Park III" and delivered at a trim 93 minutes, is a solid thrill ride in its own right, directed with a sure hand by Joe Johnston ("October Sky," "Hidalgo"). Sam Neill is lured back to the island (along with Tea Leoni and William H. Macy) and he's in trouble again, but this one is wittier and smoother than Spielberg's sequel.
Extras: widescreen, three films, Blu-ray and digital versions, deleted scenes, featurettes, photo/art galleries, trailers (also available in a limited-edition gift set boxed as a crate with a T-rex statue, $119.98)
"Captain America: The First Avenger" (Paramount/3-D Blu-ray, 2011, PG-13, three discs, $54.99). After faltering with a truly awful remake of "The Wolf Man," "Jurassic Park III's" director Joe Johnston bounced back with this Marvel comic tale — which was, for my money, the best of the summer's pack of superhero yarns.
Perfectly cast Chris Evans gets the tone just right, never falling into parody the way Seth Rogen did in "The Green Hornet" and, to a lesser degree, Ryan Reynolds in "Green Lantern." (Maybe the color green has something to do with it.)
Evans plays a weakling in the early 1940s who wants desperately to join the Army and fight the Nazis, but he's rejected because of his size and frailty. But he has the last laugh when an experiment pumps him up and he becomes the title character.
The film has great fun recapturing the era and having the character go from a poster boy for patriotism to becoming a full-fledged wartime hero, and Tommy Lee Jones lends heft as his commanding officer.
My only complaint is the ending, which twists things to make way for his joining next summer's "The Avengers" cadre, all of which should have followed the end credits. Still, a strong recommendation from this corner.
Extras: widescreen; 3-D, Blu-ray, DVD and digital versions; deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, photo gallery, trailers (also in two-disc Blu-ray, DVD, digital set, $42.99; and single-disc DVD, $29.99)
"Winnie the Pooh" (Disney/Blu-ray, 2011, G, $39.99). The simple title here is perfect for this follow-up to Disney's earlier adaptations of A.A. Milne's "Pooh" books for small fry. The film is lovely in its dappled watercolors (vivid in high definition) and engaging in its light, episodic storytelling, all of which will delight children and charm parents. And it's so nice to see Disney eschew any thoughts of updating the characters into a more vulgarized atmosphere.
Extras: widescreen, Blu-ray and DVD versions, deleted scenes, featurette, sing-along, short cartoons, trailers
"The Sisters" (Warner Archive, 1938, b/w, $19.95). The year before their memorable teaming in "The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex," Bette Davis and Errol Flynn (sans mustache) played opposite each other in this melodrama based on the popular novel about three sisters in the early 20th century whose marriages founder for different reasons.
Davis marries sportswriter Flynn, who goes into a tailspin and becomes an alcoholic, leading to a lengthy separation — during which there is a lavish re-creation of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Very well acted by an expert cast, with lots of familiar character players on hand.
Extras: full frame, trailer (available at www.WarnerArchive.com)
"Fashions of 1934" (Warner Archive, 1934, b/w, $19.95). William Powell teams up with an atypically blonde and brassy Bette Davis in this comedy-fashion show from Busby Berkeley, with the expected flamboyant production numbers (especially the memorable "Spin a Little Web of Dreams").
Powell and Davis sparkle (in their only teaming) as con artists ripping off fashion designs in Paris to sell them stateside on the cheap — until their own game catches up with them. Amusing fluff.
Extras: full frame, trailer (available at www.WarnerArchive.com)Comment on this story
"No Blade of Grass" (Warner Archive, 1970; R for violence, language, brief partial nudity, nude photos; $19.95). End-of-the-world, environmental cautionary tale is extremely heavy-handed, with opening shots of pollution and a nuclear blast, followed by scenes of starving children on a television screen as wealthy Brits overeat. (One says of impending trouble, "It'll be worse here than it is in Africa or Asia, where they're used to famine." Sheesh!)
The fractured narrative, cutting back and forth between past and present, follows a family attempting to flee London after a worldwide virus runs amok. They encounter the expected difficulties as the film cribs from "Panic in Year Zero" and foreshadows "Mad Max." (Co-written and directed by actor Cornel Wilde.)
Extras: widescreen (available at www.WarnerArchive.com)