DVDs Nuts

Lesser-seen, critic-approved films on disc and on demandby Justin Strout and John Thomason

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The Avengers This superhero team-up has been seen by just about everyone on Earth and it was just announced that its distributor, the Walt Disney Co., was the most profitable media company of the summer thanks in large part to its massive success. But it bears repeating that, of all things, this comic-book adaptation is the smartest, funniest and most action-packed title hitting shelves this week – maybe this month. Joss Whedon's outrageously entertaining film packs in more than just explosions and action-figure fights; it's chock full of concepts not often seen within, as Whedon half-jokingly describes The Avengers, "corporate spectacle." Issues of government transparency, mortality, immortality, Machiavellian debate over the nature of ruling and the role of the ruled and the Promethean horror of a monster who can't die, even by its alter-ego's attempted suicide (a darkly sublime idea credited to Zak Penn, who shares a story credit with Whedon). All of this, and yet The Avengers still feels propulsive, hilarious, almost important. And it deserves some Oscar love come February. (available now)
Special Features: Audio commentary, deleted scenes, gag reel

Key & Peele: Season One If you've been hankering for an Obama impression that doesn't make you want to change party affiliations, throw out the TV and sleep through the election cycle, try this sleeper surprise on Comedy Central. Comprised of two former MAD TV stars, Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key, it's sketch comedy with an Everyman touch and a post-racial appeal. Both co-hosts admit to sheltered-suburbia upbringings and Key is mixed-race, so they straddle the culture line self-knowingly and adeptly. One recurring sketch, in which Peele's President Obama is so reserved that he's hired a militant African-American to translate his bullet points into "real talk," is so nuanced in its observation of 44 that it's easy to overlook just how much better Peele is at imitating the man than Saturday Night Live's failed candidates. (Peele was passed over at SNL in 2008 in favor of … Fred Armison. Jay Pharoah, who's never met a line he can't step on, recently took over.) It's not The Chappelle's Show – Key and Peele's NPR sensibilities hardly allow for that kind of button-pushing – but they know that, too, and that goes a long way. (available now)
Special Features: Audio commentary, outtakes, Q&A, featurettes

Nova Rex: Ain't Easy Being Cheesy Oh, Anvil, what hath you wrought? Finally, Central Florida gets in on the "real-life Spinal Tap" action with this self-produced power-walk down memory lane with two members of one-time on-the-cusp hair metal act Nova Rex. Bassist Kenny Wilkerson and guitarist J.P. Cervoni reunite decades removed from their opening-act heyday to revel in the low-key glory of, in their present-day words, "chicks they banged." The music's part of it, too, in a way. The doc, directed by Dean Robinson, takes us through early sold-out shows, utilizing archival and home-video footage, interspersed with talking-head interviews with, well, Wilkerson and Cervoni almost exclusively with the exception of generalized thoughts on the era from a former "music enthusiast" (read: groupie)-turned-suburbanite who has clearly done some soul-searching since her days as a No. 1 fan. (Not Nova Rex's fan, mind you, just someone's.) It's only a shame the same can't be said for the other two, who seem preoccupied with convincing everyone they were "not gay" then or now. Duly noted, bros. (showing periodically on the Documentary Channel; DVD on sale at documentarychannel.com)
Special Features: none

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