Cap is back and better than ever as he takes on the mysterious Winter Soldier.

As I walked out of “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” back in April, I was pretty sure that I was walking out of the best comic book movie of the year. That was, at least, until I saw “Guardians of the Galaxy,” which I think stole that title and then some (Robert Downey Jr. shares my opinion). Nonetheless, the second Cap movie is still a whole lot of awesome!

Picking up some time after “The Avengers,” Steve Rogers, aka Captain America (Chris Evans), is still getting acclimated to the modern world after being an icicle for almost 70 years. From the charming and beautifully-shot opening scene–where Steve and Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) first meet while running in our nation’s capital (“On your left!”) and the two prove to have great chemistry together (something that can also be said for Steve and Scarlett Johannson’s Natasha Romanoff/Black Widow)–to the film’s epic climax, this movie is chock full of kick ass action, stunning special effects, terrific acting, hilarious one-liners, awesome references/easter eggs (Stephen Strange name-check!), and universe-altering twists and turns. This film not only honors the character’s history from “The First Avenger,” but successfully brings our hero crashing into the 21st century, something that we saw a little bit of in “The Avengers,” but with 8 or so main characters it obviously would have been difficult to spend any more time with this than they did.

The Winter Soldier

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For those of you that haven’t seen the film yet (or read the famous Winter Soldier storyline from the comics), this film marks the return of an old friend from Steve Rogers’ past, who is not quite so friendly anymore. As seen in the first film, Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) was Steve’s best friend since childhood, who also fought alongside him during World War II, until he fell to his presumed death while trying to take down a HYDRA train carrying Arnim Zola (who had a cameo in this film, with his mind uploaded onto a bank of computers in a great nod to his comic book counterpart). HYDRA recovered Bucky’s body, experimented on him, gave him a cybernetic arm, and brainwashed him, creating the Winter Soldier, a ruthless killing machine and HYDRA’s personal weapon. The Winter Soldier is my favorite Cap “villain,” as his personal connection to Steve Rogers allows for deeper, more emotional storytelling, which I think is a big reason why this film works so well.

Of course, the real villain underneath it all is HYDRA itself, which is revealed in this film to have infiltrated S.H.I.E.L.D. from its very beginnings. This revelation has already had drastic repercussions throughout the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe. The effects this had on “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.” were outstanding, turning it from a show that was slowly finding itself into the excellent show that I always hoped it could be but wasn’t just yet (I definitely recommend picking up the Season 1 boxset, which drops the same day as this film). That show was also affected by the apparent death of Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), another huge moment in this film, and after the reveal later that he is still alive and off the grid, I’m curious to see how this affects future Marvel films as well.

"Captain America: The Winter Soldier": Nick Fury

A film is usually only as good as its director, and this film had two excellent directors at the helm in brothers Anthony & Joe Russo. I personally think Marvel does a great job of hiring directors that you wouldn’t exactly expect to head up a big-budget superhero blockbuster, but always seem to be the right choice (Joss Whedon, James Gunn, even Jon Favreau). The Russos–mostly known for directing TV comedies like “Arrested Development” and “Community” (I loved the Danny Pudi cameo, by the way)–were definitely an outside-of-the-box choice for this film, but they proved to be more than capable of handling such a daunting task.

Speaking of “Arrested Development,” it was actually the Russo’s previous experience on that show that informed some of their visual choices in regards to camerawork. In the audio commentary track for the film, the Russos discuss how this film makes use of hand-held camerawork more often than not, giving the action sequences an almost “Bourne Identity” sort of look. This technique can also be used to help ground the material in reality. The directors talked about how on AD they decided on the hand-held look in order to bring together the absurdism and realism, and find a happy medium between the two, something that really lends itself to a film like this. I think this was a stroke of brilliance on the part of the Brothers Russo and I can’t wait to see what they do with the third installment.

If you’re a Captain America fan, a fan of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as whole or any of the individual movies themselves, I’m 100% confident that you will dig this film. I personally think it is the best solo Avenger outing to date.

"Captain America: The Winter Soldier" Blu-Ray Cover Art

And as if the movie alone wasn’t amazing enough, check out this list of special features included:

Digital 3D, HD, & SD*, 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray bonus materials include:

  • Making-of Featurettes:
    • On The Front Line: An Inside Look at Captain America’s Battlegrounds
    • On the Set with Anthony Mackie: Cut the Check!
    • Steve Rogers’ Notebook
  • Audio Commentary (with Directors Anthony & Joe Russo and Screenwriters Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely)
  • Never-Before-Seen Deleted and Extended Scenes (with optional Audio Commentary)
  • Gag Reel
  • And More

*Digital bonus offerings will vary per retailer

1-Disc DVD bonus materials include:

  • Making-of Featurette
  • Never-Before-Seen Deleted Scene

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Blu-Ray Rating:

Movie: 9/10

Special Features: 6/10

Bottom Line: The movie’s spectacular! That’s the main reason to pick this up. The special features are great too, but there are not that many of them. For me, the highlight is the commentary track.

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“Captain America: The Winter Soldier” is available on 3D Blu-Ray, Blu-Ray, DVD and On Demand September 9th, 2014. Will you be picking it up? Sound off in the comments section below.

-By Jeff Grantz