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Captain America Takes on Blu-ray

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Captain America: The First Avenger is out now on a three-disk Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack. There's also a two-disc pack that leaves out the 3-D version and a single DVD that doesn't come with the digital copy.

Captain America is the fifth movie in a confusing-to-outsiders-but-totally-logical-to-comics-fans Marvel film series leading up to next summer's The Avengers. The others (in order: Iron Man & The Incredible Hulk in 2008, Iron Man 2 in 2010 and Thor in 2011) were of varying quality, but this one is the best Marvel film since the original Iron Man.

Marvel has made some unexpected director choices (noted Shakespearean actor/director Kenneth Branagh for Thor, Buffy the Vampire Slayer's Joss Whedon for The Avengers and Monster director Patty Jenkins is rumored for Thor 2) and hiring Joe Johnson for Captain America: The First Avenger fits that pattern. Johnson most recently the relentlessly old-fashioned and not-really-successful relaunch of The Wolfman for Universal and Hidalgo, the big-budget Arabian horse drama that proved that Viggo Mortensen wasn't going to be a big movie star outside of the Lord of the Rings series.

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Johnson did direct The Rocketeer, a 1991 Disney movie based on the indie comic series and a film that perfectly captured the WWII-period superhero vibe needed for Captain America. Johnson brings that same square vibe to the movie and it works brilliantly. The movie's only real flaws are the kinda creepy visual effects used to shrink down Chris Evans to wimp size before he gets the experimental shot that turns him into Cap and a Morning-in-America 80s-style score that doesn't really fit with the movie's '40s vibe.

The Blu-ray looks fantastic, definitely worth the upgrade from standard DVD. The digital download copy is a fuzzy as anything else you download from iTunes and just more evidence for how poor a job the studios and electronics manufacturers have done in selling consumers on just how good a viewing experience the right technology can offer.

The best extra on the disk is a three-minute short  called A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Thor's Hammer that shows Clark Gregg's Agent Coulson character handling a confrontation in a convenience store. There's so much Little Debbie signage in the scene that you have to hope snack cake fees covered the entire budget. There's some great effects background in the featurettes but, aside from an interesting exchange between Captain America and Nick Fury in Times Square, everything else in the deleted scenes belonged on the cutting room floor. There's a director commentary, but it's off-the-cuff and not anything that's going to change your ideas of the movie.

After getting the 3D copy of the movie, I discovered that I don't know anyone who's actually invested in all the gear (tv, player, glasses) necessary to watch a 3D disk, so you'll have to make that call for yourself.

Supersize (a/k/a normal-size) Chris Evans is great in the film and it'll be great to see how he plays off Robert Downey Jr. in The Avengers. There's a brief "exclusive" trailer in the extras that features a couple of seconds you won't see in the trailers already online. Even if the extras aren't essential, this title  is worth it to watch the movie again just to hunt for clues about what comes next in the series.

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